Triptolide is a multi-functional natural small molecular compound extracted from a traditional Chinese medicinal herb. Triptolide and its derivatives exhibit cytotoxicity through inducing DNA damage, therefore increasing sensitivity to DNA-damage based chemotherapy or radiotherapy in different types of cells. However, the regulatory mechanism of genotoxicity by triptolide, and the loss of genome integrity induced by triptolide are not fully understood. Here, we measured the effects of triptolide on genome integrity in a human fibroblast line HCA2-hTERT using the neutral comet assay. We demonstrated that treating cells with triptolide induced genomic instability in HCA2-hTERT cells. Furthermore, we observed the accumulation of γH2AX foci in triptolide treated cells than control cells at 24 h post ionizing radiation. Further mechanistic studies indicated that triptolide inhibited the enzymatic activity of DNA-PKcs, the critical nonhomologous end joining factor. In vitro kinase activity assays showed that triptolide suppressed the kinase activity of DNA-PKcs and molecular docking also predicted a potential interaction between triptolide and DNA-PKcs. As a consequence, we found that triptolide treatment enhanced the interaction between DNA-PKcs and KU80 and hampered the following recruitment of 53BP1. Altogether, our finding provides a new perspective about the toxicity of triptolide in non-cancer cells and highlights the necessity of taking genome effects of triptolide and its derivatives into consideration in the future clinical and research applications.
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