Tocotrienols: balancing the mitochondrial crosstalk between apoptosis and autophagy.
Tocotrienols are a group of natural vitamin E compounds with patent antitumoral effects, mostly based on their ability to induce apoptosis in cancer cells. In activated pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs) we have determined that tocotrienols elicit a dramatic mitochondrial destabilization followed by initiation of non-necrotic forms of programmed cell death, namely apoptosis and autophagy. PSCs are the main cell type involved in the generation of pancreatic fibrosis, and their removal is critical to limit the fibrogenic process. Noteworthy, tocotrienol death-promoting actions are exclusively directed to activated PSCs, but not to their quiescent counterparts nor to terminally differentiated acinar cells. Here, we hypothesize that the transformed phenotype of PSCs may include "activated" mitochondria, which can be used by tocotrienols to trigger autophagic and apoptotic signaling. We propose that mitochondria are the cornerstone of cell sensitivity to tocotrienols, and suggest possible mechanisms, that may be interconnected, on how tocotrienols may govern mitochondrial death pathways.
Autophagy. 2007 Nov-Dec;3(6):652-4. doi: 10.4161/auto.5088. PMID: 17932465.