Bear bile was used as a traditional medicine or tonic in East Asia, and ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) is the most important compound in bear bile. Further, synthetic UDCA is also used in modern medicine and nutrition; therefore, its further functional effects warrant research, in vitro
methods could be used for the fundamental research of its anticancer effects. In this study, the apoptotic effects of UDCA in human oral squamous carcinoma HSC-3 cells through the activation of caspases were observed by the experimental methods of MTT (3-(4,5-dimethyl-2-thiazolyl)-2,5-diphenyl-2-H
-tetrazolium bromide) assay, DAPI (4’,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole) staining, flow cytometry analysis, RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) assay and Western blot assay after HSC-3 cells were treated by different concentrations of UDCA. With 0 to 400 μg/mL UDCA treatment, UDCA had strong growth inhibitory effects in HSC-3 cells, but had almost no effect in HOK normal oral cells. At concentrations of 100, 200 and 400 μg/mL, UDCA could induce apoptosis compared to untreated control HSC-3 cells. Treatment of 400 μg/mL UDCA could induce more apoptotic cancer cells than 100 and 200 μg/mL treatment; the sub-G1 DNA content of 400 μg/mL UDCA treated cancer cells was 41.3% versus
10.6% (100 μg/mL) and 22.4% (200 μg/mL). After different concentrations of UDCA treatment, the mRNA and protein expressions of caspase-3, caspase-8, caspase-9, Bax, Fas/FasL (Fas ligand), TRAIL (TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand), DR4 (death receptor 4) and DR5 (death receptor 5) were increased in HSC-3 cells, and mRNA and protein expressions of Bcl-2 (B-cell lymphoma 2), Bcl-xL (B-cell lymphoma-extra large), XIAP (X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein), cIAP-1 (cellular inhibitor of apoptosis 1), cIAP-2 (cellular inhibitor of apoptosis 2) and survival were decreased. Meanwhile, at the highest concentration of 400 μg/mL, caspase-3, caspase-8, caspase-9, Bax, Fas/FasL, TRAIL, DR4, DR5, and IκB-α expression levels were the highest, and Bcl-2, Bcl-xL, XIAP, cIAP-1, cIAP-2, survival, and NF-κB expression levels were the lowest. These results proved that UDCA could induce apoptosis of HSC-3 cancer cells through caspase activation, and the higher concentration of UDCA had stronger effects in vitro
. UDCA might be a good nutrient for oral cancer prevention.