Cationic antimicrobial peptide NRC-03 induces oral squamous cell carcinoma cell apoptosis via CypD-mPTP axis-mediated mitochondrial oxidative stress

Dan Hou, Fengjun Hu, Yixin Mao, Liang Yan, Yuhui Zhang, Zhichao Zheng, Antong Wu, Tymour Forouzanfar, Janak L. Pathak, Gang Wu

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Pleurocidin-family cationic antimicrobial peptide NRC-03 exhibits potent and selective cytotoxicity towards cancer cells. However, the anticancer effect of NRC-03 in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) and the molecular mechanism of NRC-03 induced cancer cell death is still unclear. This study focused to investigate mitochondrial oxidative stress-mediated altered mitochondrial function involved in NRC-03-induced apoptosis of OSCC cells. NRC-03 entered the OSCC cells more easily than that of normal cells and bound to mitochondria as well as the nucleus, causing cell membrane blebbing, mitochondria swelling, and DNA fragmentation. NRC-03 induced high oxygen consumption, reactive oxygen species (ROS) release, mitochondrial dysfunction, and apoptosis in OSCC cells. Non-specific antioxidant N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC), or mitochondria-specific antioxidant mitoquinone (MitoQ) alleviated NRC-03-induced apoptosis and mitochondrial dysfunction indicated that NRC-03 exerts a cytotoxic effect in cancer cells via inducing cellular and mitochondrial oxidative stress. Moreover, the expression of cyclophilin D (CypD), the key component of mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP), was upregulated in NRC-03-treated cancer cells. Blockade of CypD by siRNA-mediated depletion or pharmacological inhibitor cyclosporine A (CsA) significantly suppressed NRC-03-induced mitochondrial oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, and apoptosis. NRC-03 also activated MAPK/ERK and NF-κB pathways. Importantly, intratumoral administration of NRC-03 inhibited the growth of CAL-27 cells-derived tumors on xenografted animal models. Taken together, our study indicates that NRC-03 induces apoptosis in OSCC cells via the CypD-mPTP axis mediated mitochondrial oxidative stress.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102355
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalRedox Biology
Early online date28 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022


  • Cell apoptosis
  • Cyclophilin D
  • NRC-03
  • Oral squamous cell carcinoma
  • Oxidative stress

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