Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e23354. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023354. Epub 2011 Aug 10.

Withaferin A-induced apoptosis in human breast cancer cells is mediated by reactive oxygen species.

Author information

  • 1Department of Pharmacology & Chemical Biology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America.


Withaferin A (WA), a promising anticancer constituent of Ayurvedic medicinal plant Withania somnifera, inhibits growth of MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 human breast cancer cells in culture and MDA-MB-231 xenografts in vivo in association with apoptosis induction, but the mechanism of cell death is not fully understood. We now demonstrate, for the first time, that WA-induced apoptosis is mediated by reactive oxygen species (ROS) production due to inhibition of mitochondrial respiration. WA treatment caused ROS production in MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 cells, but not in a normal human mammary epithelial cell line (HMEC). The HMEC was also resistant to WA-induced apoptosis. WA-mediated ROS production as well as apoptotic histone-associated DNA fragment release into the cytosol was significantly attenuated by ectopic expression of Cu,Zn-superoxide dismutase in both MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 cells. ROS production resulting from WA exposure was accompanied by inhibition of oxidative phosphorylation and inhibition of complex III activity. Mitochondrial DNA-deficient Rho-0 variants of MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 cells were resistant to WA-induced ROS production, collapse of mitochondrial membrane potential, and apoptosis compared with respective wild-type cells. WA treatment resulted in activation of Bax and Bak in MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 cells, and SV40 immortalized embryonic fibroblasts derived from Bax and Bak double knockout mouse were significantly more resistant to WA-induced apoptosis compared with fibroblasts derived from wild-type mouse. In conclusion, the present study provides novel insight into the molecular circuitry of WA-induced apoptosis involving ROS production and activation of Bax/Bak.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Public Library of Science Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk