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J Ginseng Res. 2013 Oct;37(4):413-24. doi: 10.5142/jgr.2013.37.413.

Korean Red Ginseng protects endothelial cells from serum-deprived apoptosis by regulating Bcl-2 family protein dynamics and caspase S-nitrosylation.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, School of Medicine, Kangwon National University, Chuncheon 200-701, Korea.


Korean Red Ginseng extract (KRGE) is a traditional herbal medicine utilized to prevent endothelium dysfunction in the cardiovascular system; however, its underlying mechanism has not been clearly elucidated. We here examined the pharmacological effect and molecular mechanism of KRGE on apoptosis of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) in a serum-deprived apoptosis model. KRGE protected HUVECs from serum-deprived apoptosis by inhibiting mitochondrial cytochrome c release and caspase-9/-3 activation. This protective effect was significantly higher than that of American ginseng extract. KRGE treatment increased antiapoptotic Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL protein expression and Akt-dependent Bad phosphorylation. Moreover, KRGE prevented serum deprivation-induced subcellular redistribution of these proteins between the mitochondrion and the cytosol, resulting in suppression of mitochondrial cytochrome c release. In addition, KRGE increased nitric oxide (NO) production via Akt-dependent activation of endothelial NO synthase (eNOS), as well as inhibited caspase-9/-3 activities. These increases were reversed by co-treatment of cells with inhibitors of eNOS and phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) and pre-incubation of cell lysates in dithiothreitol, indicating KRGE induces NO-mediated caspase modification. Indeed, KRGE inhibited caspase-3 activity via S-nitrosylation. These findings suggest that KRGE prevents serum deprivation-induced HUVEC apoptosis via increased Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL protein expression, PI3K/Akt-dependent Bad phosphorylation, and eNOS/NO-mediated S-nitrosylation of caspases. The cytoprotective property of KRGE may be valuable for developing new pharmaceutical means that limit endothelial cell death induced during the pathogenesis of vascular diseases.


Apoptosis; Bcl-2 family; Endothelial cells; Nitric oxide; Panax ginseng

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