Cucurbitacins are insect steroid hormone antagonists acting at the ecdysteroid receptor
Dhadialla, Tarlochan S.
Cress, D E
Lepesant, J A
Two triterpenoids, cucurbitacins B and D, have been isolated from seeds of Iberis umbellata (Cruciferae) and shown to be responsible for the antagonistic activity of a methanolic extract of this species in preventing the 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E)-induced morphological changes in the Drosophila melanogaster BII permanent cell line. With a 20E concentration of 50 nM, cucurbitacins B and D give 50% responses at 1.5 and 10 microM respectively. Both cucurbitacins are able to displace specifically bound radiolabelled 25-deoxy-20-hydroxyecdysone (ponasterone A) from a cell-free preparation of the BII cells containing ecdysteroid receptors. The Kd values for cucurbitacins B and D (5 and 50 microM respectively) are similar to the concentrations required to antagonize 20E activity with whole cells. Cucurbitacin B (cucB) prevents stimulation by 20E of an ecdysteroid-responsive reporter gene in a transfection assay. CucB also prevents the formation of the Drosophila ecdysteroid receptor/Ultraspiracle/20E complex with the hsp27 ecdysteroid response element as demonstrated by gel-shift assay. This is therefore the first definitive evidence for the existence of antagonists acting at the ecdysteroid receptor. Preliminary structure/activity studies indicate the importance of the Delta23-22-oxo functional grouping in the side chain for antagonistic activity. Hexanorcucurbitacin D, which lacks carbon atoms C-22 to C-27, is found to be a weak agonist rather than an antagonist. Moreover, the side chain analogue 5-methylhex-3-en-2-one possesses weak antagonistic activity.
Biochemical Journal, 1997, 327(Pt 3):643-650
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