Background: Mitochondria have emerged as a major target for anticancer therapy because of their critical role in cancer cell survival. Our preliminary works have suggested that dihydroergotamine tartrate (DHE), an antimigraine agent, may have effects on mitochondria. Methods: We examined the effect of DHE on the survival of several lung cancer cells and confirmed that DHE suppressed diverse lung cancer cell growth effectively. To confirm whether such effects of DHE would be associated with mitochondria, A549 cells were employed for the evaluation of several important parameters, such as membrane potential, reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, apoptosis, ATP production and autophagy. Results: DHE decreased membrane permeability, increased ROS generation as well as apoptosis, and disturbed ATP production. Eventually, mitophagy was activated for damaged mitochondria. Conclusion: Taken together, our findings demonstrate that DHE induces lung cancer cell death by the induction of apoptosis and mitophagy, thus suggesting that DHE can be developed as an anti-lung cancer therapeutic agent.

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