We investigated the mechanisms of inhibitory effect of growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) antagonist JMR-132 on the growth of HT29, HCT-116 and HCT-15 human colon cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. High-affinity binding sites for GHRH and mRNA for GHRH and splice variant-1 (SV1) of the GHRH receptor were found in all three cell lines tested. Proliferation of HT-29, HCT-116 and HCT-15 cells was significantly inhibited in vitro by JMR-132. Time course studies revealed that the treatment of human HCT-116 colon cancer cells with 10μM GHRH antagonist JMR-132 causes a significant DNA damage as shown by an increase in olive tail moment (OTM) and loss of inner mitochondrial membrane potential (∆Ψm). Western blotting demonstrated a time-dependent increase in protein levels of phospho-p53 (Ser46), Bax, cleaved caspase-9, -3, cleavage of poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase (PARP) and a decrease in Bcl-2 levels. An augmentation in cell cycle checkpoint protein p21Waf1/Cip1 was accompanied by a cell cycle arrest in S-phase. DNA fragmentation visualized by the comet assay and the number of apoptotic cells increased time dependently as determined by flow cytometric annexinV and PI staining assays. In vivo, JMR-132 decreased the volume of HT-29, HCT-116 and HCT-15 tumors xenografted into athymic mice up to 75% (p<0.05) and extended tumor doubling time (p<0.001).
Our observations suggest that GHRH antagonist JMR-132 exerts its antiproliferative effect on experimental colon cancer cells through p21Waf1/Cip1 mediated S-phase arrest along with apoptosis involving the intrinsic pathway.