Triterpenoid ursolic acid drives metabolic rewiring and epigenetic reprogramming in treatment/prevention of human prostate cancer

Shanyi Li, Renyi Wu, Lujing Wang, Hsiao Chen Dina Kuo, Davit Sargsyan, Xi Zheng, Yujue Wang, Xiaoyang Su, Ah Ng Kong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Ursolic acid (UA) is a triterpenoid phytochemical with a strong anticancer effect. The metabolic rewiring, epigenetic reprogramming, and chemopreventive effect of UA in prostate cancer (PCa) remain unknown. Herein, we investigated the efficacy of UA in PCa xenograft, and its biological effects on cellular metabolism, DNA methylation, and transcriptomic using multi-omics approaches. The metabolomics was quantified by liquid-chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC-MS) while epigenomic CpG methylation in parallel with transcriptomic gene expression was studied by next-generation sequencing technologies. UA administration attenuated the growth of transplanted human VCaP-Luc cells in immunodeficient mice. UA regulated several cellular metabolites and metabolism-related signaling pathways including S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), methionine, glucose 6-phosphate, CDP-choline, phosphatidylcholine biosynthesis, glycolysis, and nucleotide sugars metabolism. RNA-seq analyses revealed UA regulated several signaling pathways, including CXCR4 signaling, cancer metastasis signaling, and NRF2-mediated oxidative stress response. Epigenetic reprogramming study with DNA Methyl-seq uncovered a list of differentially methylated regions (DMRs) associated with UA treatment. Transcriptome-DNA methylome correlative analysis uncovered a list of genes, of which changes in gene expression correlated with the promoter CpG methylation status. Altogether, our results suggest that UA regulates metabolic rewiring of metabolism including SAM potentially driving epigenetic CpG methylation reprogramming, and transcriptomic signaling resulting in the overall anticancer chemopreventive effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-121
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Carcinogenesis
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research


  • cancer
  • epigenome
  • metabolome
  • transcriptome
  • ursolic acid


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