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Biochemistry - Chemistry - Immunology - Respiratory Medicine

Puerarin Induces Mitochondria-Dependent Apoptosis in Hypoxic Human Pulmonary Arterial Smooth Muscle Cells
Published: Friday, March 23, 2012
Author: Chan Chen et al.

by Chan Chen, Chun Chen, Zhiyi Wang, Liangxing Wang, Lehe Yang, Minjiao Ding, Cheng Ding, Yu Sun, Quan Lin, Xiaoying Huang, Xiaohong Du, Xiaowei Zhao, Chuangyi Wang


Pulmonary vascular medial hypertrophy in hypoxic pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is caused in part by decreased apoptosis in pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells (PASMCs). Puerarin, an isoflavone purified from the Chinese medicinal herb kudzu, ameliorates chronic hypoxic PAH in animal models. Here we investigated the effects of puerarin on apoptosis of hypoxic human PASMCs (HPASMCs), and to determine the possible underlying mechanisms.

Methodology/Principal Findings

HPASMCs were cultured for 24 h in normoxia or hypoxia (5% O2) conditions with and without puerarin. Cell number and viability were determined with a hemacytometer or a cell counting kit. Apoptosis was detected with a TUNEL test, rhodamine-123 (R-123) fluorescence, a colorimetric assay, western blots, immunohistochemical staining and RT-PCR. Hypoxia inhibited mitochondria-dependent apoptosis and promoted HPASMC growth. In contrast, after puerarin (50 ┬ÁM or more) intervention, cell growth was inhibited and apoptosis was observed. Puerarin-induced apoptosis in hypoxic HPASMCs was accompanied by reduced mitochondrial membrane potential, cytochrome c release from the mitochondria, caspase-9 activation, and Bcl-2 down-regulation with concurrent Bax up-regulation.


Puerarin promoted apoptosis in hypoxic HPASMCs by acting on the mitochondria-dependent pathway. These results suggest a new mechanism of puerarin relevant to the management of clinical hypoxic pulmonary hypertension.