Chemoprevention has been a pivotal and effective strategy during the skin cancer treatment. Using human skin normal and tumor samples, we demonstrated that both the expression and activity levels of pyruvate kinase M2 (PKM2) were higher in skin tumor tissues than normal tissues, suggesting that PKM2, one of important metabolic enzyme, might serve as a target for skin cancer prevention and/or therapy. Shikonin, a small-molecule active chemical, has been studied as an anti-cancer drug candidate in human cancer models. However, the mechanism of action and the chemopreventive potential of shikonin are unclear. Herein, we used the skin epidermal JB6 P+ cells and demonstrated that shikonin suppressed the tumor promoter 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol 13-acetate (TPA) induced neoplastic cell transformation and PKM2 activation in the early stage of carcinogenesis. Mitochondrial functions were inhibited by TPA treatment, as indicated by reduced mitochondrial membrane potential and mitochondrial respiration, which were restored by shikonin. We also examined the levels of lactate as a glycolysis marker, and shikonin suppressed its increase caused by tumor promoter treatment. Modulation of cell metabolism by shikonin was associated with G2–M phase accumulation, and Fra-1 (a major subunit of activator protein 1 in skin tumorigenesis) downregulation. In addition, we demonstrated that AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an energy sensor, which is inactivated by TPA, shikonin could reverse AMPK activity. These results suggest that shikonin bears chemopreventive potential for human skin cancers in which PKM2 is upregulated, which might be mediated by inhibiting oncogenic activation, PKM2 activation, and mitochondrial dysfunction. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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