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Biol Pharm Bull. 2001 Mar;24(3):303-6.

Costunolide induces apoptosis by ROS-mediated mitochondrial permeability transition and cytochrome C release.

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Department of Pathology, College of Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Korea.


Costunolide is an active compound isolated from the root of Saussurea lappa Clarks, a Chinese medicinal herb, and is considered a therapeutic candidate for various types of cancers. Nevertheless, the pharmacological pathways of costunolide are still unknown. In this study, we investigate the effects of costunolide on the induction of apoptosis in HL-60 human leukemia cells and its putative pathways of action. Using apoptosis analysis, measurement of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and assessment of mitochondrial membrane potentials, we show that costunolide is a potent inducer of apoptosis, and facilitates its activity via ROS generation, thereby inducing mitochondrial permeability transition (MPT) and cytochrome c release to the cytosol. ROS production, mitochondrial alteration, and subsequent apoptotic cell death in costunolide-treated cells were blocked by the antioxidant N-acetylcystein (NAC). Cyclosporin A, a permeability transition inhibitor, also inhibited mitochondrial permeability transition and apoptosis. Our data indicate that costunolide induces the ROS-mediated mitochondrial permeability transition and resultant cytochrome c release. This is the first report on the mechanism of the anticancer effect of costunolide.

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