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Mol Cancer Ther. 2005 Jan;4(1):1-11.

Induction of caspase-dependent, p53-mediated apoptosis by apigenin in human neuroblastoma.

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Cancer Research Program, The Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5G 1X8.


Neuroblastoma is a pediatric tumor accounting for 15% of childhood cancer deaths and has a poor prognosis in children >1 year of age. We investigated the ability of apigenin, a nonmutagenic dietary flavonoid that has been shown to have antitumor effects in various tumor cell lines, to inhibit growth and induce apoptosis of the human neuroblastoma cell lines NUB-7, LAN-5, and SK-N-BE(2). Apigenin inhibited colony-forming ability and survival, and induced apoptosis of NUB-7 and LAN-5 cells. The presence of the C2-C3 double bond and the 4'-OH group on the flavonoid structure correlated with the growth-inhibitory potential of apigenin. Furthermore, apigenin inhibited NUB-7 xenograft tumor growth in anonobese diabetic/severe combined immunodeficiency mouse model, likely by inducing apoptosis. Apigenin did not inhibit survival of primary sympathetic neurons, suggesting that it is not toxic to nontransformed cells. The mechanism of action of apigenin seems to involve p53, as it increased the levels of p53 and the p53-induced gene products p21WAF1/CIP1 and Bax. Furthermore, apigenin (15-60 micromol/L) induced cell death and apoptosis of neuroblastoma cells expressing wild-type but not mutant p53. Apigenin increased caspase-3 activity and PARP cleavage, and Z-VAD-FMK, a broad-spectrum caspase-3 inhibitor, rescued NUB-7 cells from apigenin-mediated apoptosis indicating that apigenin induced apoptosis in acaspase-dependent manner. Overexpression of Bcl-X(L) rescued NUB-7 from apigenin-induced cell death, suggesting that Bax activity is important for the action of apigenin. Apigenin is thus a candidate therapeutic for neuroblastoma that likely acts by regulating a p53-Bax-caspase-3 apoptotic pathway.

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