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Biotechnology - Oncology - Pharmacology - Molecular Biology

Growth Inhibition and Apoptosis Induced by Osthole, A Natural Coumarin, in Hepatocellular Carcinoma
Published: Friday, May 25, 2012
Author: Lurong Zhang et al.

by Lurong Zhang, Guorong Jiang, Fei Yao, Yan He, Guoqiang Liang, Yinsheng Zhang, Bo Hu, Yan Wu, Yunsen Li, Haiyan Liu


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most commonly diagnosed tumors worldwide and is known to be resistant to conventional chemotherapy. New therapeutic strategies are urgently needed for treating HCC. Osthole, a natural coumarin derivative, has been shown to have anti-tumor activity. However, the effects of osthole on HCC have not yet been reported.

Methods and Findings

HCC cell lines were treated with osthole at various concentrations for 24, 48 and 72 hours. The proliferations of the HCC cells were measured by MTT assays. Cell cycle distribution and apoptosis were determined by flow cytometry. HCC tumor models were established in mice by subcutaneously injection of SMMC-7721 or Hepa1-6 cells and the effect of osthole on tumor growths in vivo and the drug toxicity were studied. NF-?B activity after osthole treatment was determined by electrophoretic mobility shift assays and the expression of caspase-3 was measured by western blotting. The expression levels of other apoptosis-related genes were also determined by real-time PCR (PCR array) assays. Osthole displayed a dose- and time-dependent inhibition of the HCC cell proliferations in vitro. It also induced apoptosis and caused cell accumulation in G2 phase. Osthole could significantly suppress HCC tumor growth in vivo with no toxicity at the dose we used. NF-?B activity was significantly suppressed by osthole at the dose- and time-dependent manner. The cleaved caspase-3 was also increased by osthole treatment. The expression levels of some apoptosis-related genes that belong to TNF ligand family, TNF receptor family, Bcl-2 family, caspase family, TRAF family, death domain family, CIDE domain and death effector domain family and CARD family were all increased with osthole treatment.


Osthole could significantly inhibit HCC growth in vitro and in vivo through cell cycle arrest and inducing apoptosis by suppressing NF-?B activity and promoting the expressions of apoptosis-related genes.