Pekinenin C is a casbane diterpenoid separated from the root of the traditional Chinese medicine, Euphorbia pekinensis
Rupr., which is used as drug for the treatment of edema, ascites, and hydrothorax. Whereas pekinenin C exhibits severe cytotoxicity, the exact toxicity mechanism is unclear. In this study, the effects of pekinenin C on cell inhibition, cell cycle, and cell apoptosis were examined to explain its toxic mechanism. The proliferation of IEC-6 cells was accessed via MTT colorimetric assay after incubated with different concentrations of pekinenin C. Pekinenin C-treated IEC-6 cells labeled with RNase/PI and Annexin V/PI were analyzed by flow cytometric analyses for evaluation of cell cycle distribution and cell apoptosis, respectively. The apoptosis mechanism of pekinenin C on IEC-6 was investigated through assaying the activities of caspase-3, 8, 9 by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), protein expression of Bax, Bcl-2, apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF), Apaf-1, Fas-associated death domain (FADD) and type 1-associated death domain (TRADD) by Western-blot, mRNA expression of Fas receptor (FasR), Fas ligand (FasL), tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR1) and NF-κB by RT-PCR. The results showed that pekinenin C has exhibited obvious IEC-6 cells toxicity and the IC50
value was 2.1 μg·mL−1
. Typical apoptosis characteristics were observed under a transmission electron microscopy, and it was found that pekinenin C could cause G0/G1 phase arrest in IEC-6 cells in a dose-dependent manner and induce apoptosis of IEC-6 cells. Additionally, pekinenin C could increase the expressions of Bax, AIF, Apaf-1, FasR, FasL, TNFR1 and NF-κB, suppress the expression of Bcl-2, FADD and TRADD, then activate caspase-3, 8, 9 cascades, and at last result in apoptosis. These results demonstrated that pekinenin C effectively promoted cell apoptosis, and induced IEC-6 cells apoptosis through both the mitochondrial and death receptor pathways.
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