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Clin Cancer Res. 2008 Feb 15;14(4):1248-57. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-07-1926.

Honokiol, a constituent of oriental medicinal herb magnolia officinalis, inhibits growth of PC-3 xenografts in vivo in association with apoptosis induction.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, USA.



This study was undertaken to determine the efficacy of honokiol, a constituent of oriental medicinal herb Magnolia officinalis, against human prostate cancer cells in culture and in vivo.


Honokiol-mediated apoptosis was assessed by analysis of cytoplasmic histone-associated DNA fragmentation. Knockdown of Bax and Bak proteins was achieved by transient transfection using siRNA. Honokiol was administered by oral gavage to male nude mice s.c. implanted with PC-3 cells. Tumor sections from control and honokiol-treated mice were examined for apoptotic bodies (terminal deoxyribonucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling assay), proliferation index (proliferating cell nuclear antigen staining), and neovascularization (CD31 staining). Levels of Bcl-2 family proteins in cell lysates and tumor supernatants were determined by immunoblotting.


Exposure of human prostate cancer cells (PC-3, LNCaP, and C4-2) to honokiol resulted in apoptotic DNA fragmentation in a concentration- and time-dependent manner irrespective of their androgen responsiveness or p53 status. Honokiol-induced apoptosis correlated with induction of Bax, Bak, and Bad and a decrease in Bcl-xL and Mcl-1 protein levels. Transient transfection of PC-3 cells with Bak- and Bax-targeted siRNAs and Bcl-xL plasmid conferred partial yet significant protection against honokiol-induced apoptosis. Oral gavage of 2 mg honokiol/mouse (thrice a week) significantly retarded growth of PC-3 xenografts without causing weight loss. Tumors from honokiol-treated mice exhibited markedly higher count of apoptotic bodies and reduced proliferation index and neovascularization compared with control tumors.


Our data suggest that honokiol, which is used in traditional oriental medicine for the treatment of various ailments, may be an attractive agent for treatment and/or prevention of human prostate cancers.

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