Characterization of the apoptotic response of human leukemia cells to organosulfur compounds
It has been well documented that natural organosulfur compounds (OSCs) derived from plants such as garlic, onions and mahogany trees possess antiproliferative properties; however, the essential chemical features of the active OSC compounds remain unclear. To investigate the association between OSC structure and growth inhibitory activity, we synthesized novel relatives of dysoxysulfone, a natural OSC derived from the Fijian medicinal plant, Dysoxylum richii. In this study, we have examined the antiproliferative effects of these novel OSCs on a model human leukemic cell system and show that the compounds segregate into three groups. Group I, consisting of compounds A, B, G and J, did not affect either cell proliferation or the cell cycle profile of the leukemic cell lines. Group II, consisting of compounds F and H, induced the cells to undergo apoptosis from the G2/M phase of the cell cycle. Group III, consisting of compounds C, D, E and I, decreased cell proliferation and induced apoptosis throughout the cell cycle. The apoptotic agonists of Group II and III shared a common disulfide moiety, essential for leukemic cell cytotoxicity. Interestingly, Group II compounds did not affect cell viability of normal human diploid cells, suggesting the regions flanking the disulfide group contributes to the specificity of cell killing. Thus, we provide evidence that structure-activity analysis of natural products can identify novel compounds for the development of new therapeutics that can trigger apoptosis in a tumor-specific manner.