Anticancer Effects of 1,3-Dihydroxy-2-Methylanthraquinone
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Hedyotis Diffusa Willd, used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is a treatment for various diseases including cancer, owing to its mild effectiveness and low toxicity. The aim of this study was to identify the main anticancer components in Hedyotis Diffusa Willd, and explore mechanisms underlying their activity. Hedyotis Diffusa Willd was extracted and fractionated using ethyl acetate to obtain the H-Ethyl acetate fraction, which showed higher anticancer activity than the other fractions obtained against HepG2 cells with sulforhodamine B assays. 

The active component of the H-Ethyl acetate fraction was identified to be 1,3-dihydroxy-2-methylanthraquinone (DMQ) with much high inhibitory rate up to 48.9 ¡À 3.3% and selectivity rate up to 9.4 ¡À 4.5 folds (p<0.01) at 125 ¦Ìmol/L. HepG2 cells treated with the fraction and DMQ visualized morphologically using light and fluorescence microscopy. Annexin V--fluorescein isothiocyanate / propidium iodide staining flow cytometry, DNA ladder and cell cycle distribution assays. 

Mechanistic studies showed up-regulation of caspase-3, -8, and -9 proteases activities (p<0.001), indicating involvement of mitochondrial apoptotic and death receptor pathways. Further studies revealed that reactive oxygen species in DMQ and the fraction treated HepG2 cells increased (p<0.01) while mitochondrial membrane potential reduced significantly (p<0.001) compared to the control by flow cytometry assays. Western blot analysis showed that Bax, p53, Fas, FasL, p21 and cytoplasmic cytochrome C were up-regulated (p<0.01), while Bcl-2, mitochondrial cytochrome C, cyclin E and CDK 2 were down-regulated dose-dependently (p<0.01). 

The reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction showed that mRNA expressions of p53 and Bax increased (p<0.001) while that of Bcl-2 decreased (p<0.001). Pre-treatment with caspase-8 inhibitor Z-IETD-FMK, or caspase-9 inhibitor Z-LEHD-FMK, attenuated the growth-inhibitory and apoptosis-inducing effects of DMQ and the fraction on HepG2 cells. These results suggested that DMQ and the H-Ethyl acetate fraction of Hedyotis Diffusa Willd showed potential anticancer effects. Furthermore, the mechanisms of action may involve mitochondrial apoptotic and death receptor pathways.

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