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Clin Cancer Res. 2003 Aug 1;9(8):3176-82.

Activation of prodeath Bcl-2 family proteins and mitochondrial apoptosis pathway by sanguinarine in immortalized human HaCaT keratinocytes.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


Sanguinarine, derived from the root of Sanguinaria canadensis and other poppy fumaria species, possesses strong antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. We earlier showed that sanguinarine kills human epidermoid carcinoma A431 cells via an induction of apoptosis [N. Ahmad et al., Clin. Cancer Res., 6: 1524-1528, 2000]. In this study, using immortalized human keratinocytes (HaCaT cells), we provide information about mechanism of the antiproliferative effect of sanguinarine. Sanguinarine [0.1 (M-2 (M)] treatment to HaCaT cells was found to inhibit in a dose-dependent manner the cell proliferation and induce apoptosis, as measured by 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide assay and ELISA, respectively. Sanguinarine treatment also resulted in a significant cleavage of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase in HaCaT cells. Because mitochondrial pathway is critical for the regulation of apoptosis, we studied the involvement and regulation of mitochondrial events in sanguinarine-mediated apoptosis of HaCaT cells. As shown by the immunoblot analysis, our data clearly demonstrated that sanguinarine treatment to HaCaT cells resulted in a dose-dependent (a) increase in the level of Bax with a concomitant decrease in Bcl-2 levels and (b) increase in Bax/Bcl-2 ratio. Sanguinarine also resulted in significant increases in the proapoptotic members of Bcl-2 family proteins, i.e., Bak and Bid. This was accompanied by increase in (a) protein expression of cytochrome c and apoptotic protease-activating factor-1 and (b) activity and protein expression of caspase-3, caspase-7, caspase-8, and caspase-9. Taken together, our data showed the involvement of mitochondrial pathway and Bcl-2 family proteins during sanguinarine-mediated apoptosis of immortalized keratinocytes. We suggest that sanguinarine could be developed as a drug for the management of hyperproliferative skin disorders, including skin cancer.

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