2015 Volume 9 Issue 4 Pages 289-295
Cucurbitacin I (CBI) is a triterpene from a bitter melon called Goya grown in Okinawa, Japan, and directly inhibits both the Tyr-kinase JAK2 and the G protein RAC, leading to the inactivation of PAK1 (RAC/CDC42-activated kinase 1). Bio 30, a propolis produced in New Zealand, contains CAPE (caffeic acid phenethyl ester) as the major anti-cancer ingredient which directly down-regulates RAC, leading to the inactivation of PAK1. Since PAK1 is essential for the growth of RAS cancer cells such as A549 cell line which carry an oncogenic K-RAS mutant, and the melanogenesis in skin cells, here using these PAK1-blockers as model compounds, we introduce a new approach to the quick assessment of PAK1-blockers in cell culture. First, combining the immuno-precipitation (IP) of PAK1 from cell lysate and the in vitro ATP_Glo kinase assay kit (called "Macaroni-Western" assay), we confirmed that both CBI and Bio 30 inactivate PAK1 in A549 lung cancer cells in 24 h, and inhibit their PAK1-dependent growth in 72 h. Furthermore, we verified that CBI inhibits the PAK1/PAK4-dependent melanogenesis in melanoma cells by far more than 50%, while Bio 30 inhibits the melanogenesis only by 50%, with only a merginal effect on their growth per se. Since the "Macaroni-Western" kinase assay and melanogenesis are both rather simple and quick, the combination of these two cell culture assays would be highly useful for selecting both "potent" (highly cell-permeable) and "safe" (non-toxic) natural or synthetic PAK1-blockers.