Celastrol suppresses nitric oxide synthases and the angiogenesis pathway in colorectal cancer

The thunder god vine (Tripterygium wilfordii Hook. F) is traditionally used for inflammation-related diseases in traditional Chinese medicine. In recent years, celastrol (a natural compound from the root of the thunder god vine) has attracted great interest for its potential anticancer activities. The free radical nitric oxide (NO) is known to play a critical role in colorectal cancer growth by promoting tumour angiogenesis. However, how celastrol influences the NO pathway and its mechanism against colorectal cancer is largely unknown. In this study, we investigated the effects and mechanism of celastrol on nitric oxide synthase (NOS) and the angiogenesis pathway in colorectal cancer. Our data show that celastrol inhibited HT-29 and HCT116 cell proliferation, migration, and NOS activity in the cytoplasm. The antiproliferation activity of celastrol was associated with the inhibition of iNOS and eNOS in colorectal cancer cells. Treatment with celastrol inhibited colorectal cancer cell growth and migration, and was associated with suppression of the expression of key genes (TYMP, CDH5, THBS2, LEP, MMP9, and TNF) and proteins (IL-1b, MMP-9, PDGF, Serpin E1, and TIMP-4) involved in the angiogenesis pathway. In addition, combinational use of celastrol with 5-fluorouracil, salinomycin, 1400 W, and L-NIO showed enhanced inhibition of colorectal cancer cell proliferation and migration. In sum, our study suggests that celastrol could suppress colorectal cancer cell growth and migration, likely through suppressing NOS activity and inhibiting the angiogenesis pathway.