2015 Volume 9 Issue 4 Pages 282-288
Some peptides that are highly conserved between insects and mammals have anti-tumor action. Screening for inhibitors of cell growth from animal fluids may provide useful clues to anti-tumor drugs. Inducers of autophagy also have anti-tumor activity. The current authors recently studied a protein found in silkworm hemolymph, Niemann-Pick disease type C2 (NPC2). This protein, which is highly conserved among eukaryotes, was found to have anti-proliferative action on a silkworm cell line. The current study found that the silkworm NPC2 protein also inhibits the growth of FM3A murine breast cancer cells. In FM3A cells, silkworm NPC2 increased phosphorylation of AMP-activated protein kinase and decreased phosphorylation of Akt and mammalian target of rapamycin, which are regulators of autophagy. This study also found that NPC2 increased the amount of microtubule-associated protein light chain 3 (LC3)-II, an autophagosome marker, in FM3A cells. Silkworm NPC2 also induced an increase in the number of LC3-dots, a marker of pre-autophagic endosomes, in FM3A cells. When silkworm NPC2 was used to inhibit FM3A cell growth, that inhibition was attenuated by chloroquine, which inhibits autophagic activity by preventing lysosomal acidification. Murine NPC2 also inhibited growth and induced autophagy in FM3A cells. These findings suggest that NPC2 is involved in the induction and/or maintenance of autophagy and may help to elucidate the mechanisms underlying other neurodegenerative disorders such as Niemann-Pick disease.