Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Pharmacology & Toxicology

First Advisor

David Gewirtz


Abstract The stilbene derivative, cis-3, 4’, 5-trimethoxy-3’-aminostilbene (stilbene 5c), is a potentially potent antitumor agent that acts via binding to the colchicine-binding pocket in microtubules. Earlier studies have shown that stilbene 5c induces cell death in ovarian cancer cells and leukemic cells. The present study was designed to investigate the effectiveness of this microtubule poison against the HCT-116 human colon cancer cell line and its mechanisms of action. Time course studies demonstrated that stilbene 5c produces a biphasic decrease in cell viability. The capacity of the cells to proliferate was not restored upon removal of the drug after 6 days of exposure. Consistent with the results of the time course studies, β-galactosidase staining indicated that treatment with stilbene 5c also promotes senescence. In addition to senescence, stilbene 5c-treated HCT-116 cells displayed formation of autophagic vesicles by acridine orange staining, which was supported by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). Further evidence of autophagy was derived from treatment of HCT116 cells carrying an RFP-LC3 construct with stilbene 5c, in which LC3 puncta formation increased in a time-dependent manner. DAPI staining, TUNEL, and Annexin 5 staining indicated that apoptosis is also occurring in stilbene 5c-treated HCT-116 cells. Cell cycle analysis demonstrated growth arrest at both G1 and G2/M, and an increase in the subG1 population at days 3 and 5, which correspond to senescence and apoptosis respectively. Interestingly, DAPI and Hoechst staining revealed morphological changes in the cell nuclei (binucleated and micronucleated cells), which suggest that mitotic catastrophe may also serve as a mode of cell death after treatment with stilbene 5c. However, our studies indicated that stilbene 5c works in a p53-independent manner. Exposure of P53-null HCT116 cells to stilbene resulted in a similar sensitivity as in p53-wild type HCT116 cells. We found that autophagic vacuoles were formed in response to stilbene 5c in p53-null HCT116 cells as well. Consistent with previous studies in other experimental cancer models, this work indicates that stilbene 5c could potentially be effective against colon cancer through the promotion of multiple modes of cell death.


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VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

August 2012