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Chem Biol Interact. 2008 Jan 10;171(1):1-14. Epub 2007 Sep 12.

Anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effect of Smilax glabra Roxb. extract on hepatoma cell lines.

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Institute of Chinese Medical Sciences, University of Macau, Av. Padre Tomás Pereira S.J., Taipa, Macao, China.


Smilax glabra Roxb. (SGR) is the root of a traditional Chinese herb, referred to as tu fu ling in Chinese medicine. It is an inexpensive traditional Chinese medicine commonly used for the treatment of liver diseases, and a few studies have indicated that SGR has anti-hepatocarcinogenic and anti-cancer growth activities. In the current study, raw SGR plant was extracted with Accelerate Solvent Extractor, and the molecular mechanism by which S. glabra Roxb. extract (SGRE) has an anti-proliferative effect on the human hepatoma cell lines, HepG2 and Hep3B, was determined. We showed that SGRE inhibited HepG2 and Hep3B cell growth by causing cell-cycle arrest at either S phase or S/G2 transition and induced apoptosis, as evidenced by a DNA fragmentation assay. SGRE-induced apoptosis by alternation of mitochondrial transmembrane depolarization, release of mitochondrial cytochrome c, activation of caspase-3, and cleavage of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase. The SGRE-mediated mitochondria-caspase dependent apoptotic pathway also involved activation of p38, JNK, and ERK mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling. Isometric compounds of astilbin (flavonoids) and smilagenin (saponin) have been identified as the main chemical constituents in SGRE by HPLC-MS/MS. These results have identified, for the first time, the biological activity of SGRE in HepG2 and Hep3B cells and should lead to further development of SGR for liver disease therapy.

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