Astaxanthin (AST) is related to apoptosis but the details of the mechanism of how AST makes apoptosis is not clear. The present study investigated apoptotic effects of AST to SKBR3, a breast cancer cell line in detail. Cell viability assay showed cellular proliferation and morphological changes of the cells were observed under AST treatment. FACS analysis indicated that AST blocked cell cycle progression at G0/G1, suppressed proliferation dose-dependently, and induced apoptosis of the cells. The apoptosis of the cells by AST was further demonstrated through the decreased expression level of mutp53 and cleaved a PARP-1 fragment, respectively. In addition, AST induced the intrinsic apoptosis of the cells by activation of Bax/Bcl2, cleaved caspase-3, and cleaved caspase-9 as well as the phosphorylation of ERK1/2, JNK, and p38. Furthermore, AST decreased production of intracellular reactive oxygen species as well as modulated expressions of superoxide dismutases and Pontin, an anti-apoptotic factor. Co-immunoprecipitation assay revealed AST reduced interaction between Pontin and mutant p53. Taken together, these studies proved that AST regulates the expression of apoptotic molecules to induce intrinsic apoptosis of the cells, suggesting AST therapy might provide an alternative for improving the efficacies of other anti-cancer therapies for breast cancer.
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