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Planta Med. 2008 Sep;74(11):1357-62. doi: 10.1055/s-2008-1081299. Epub 2008 Jul 11.

Growth inhibition and apoptosis induction by tanshinone IIA in human colon adenocarcinoma cells.

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Division of General Surgery, Department of Surgery, Buddhist Tzu Chi General Hospital and Tzu Chi University, Hualien, Taiwan.


Tanshinone IIA is the most abundant diterpene quinone in Danshen, Salviae miltiorrhizae Radix, a widely prescribed traditional herbal medicine that is used to treat cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases. Recently, tanshinone IIA was demonstrated to induce cell death and apoptosis in a variety of tumors. However, the effect of tanshinone IIA on human colon cancer cells is not clearly understood yet. In this study, the antigrowth and apoptosis-eliciting effects of tanshinone IIA, as well as its cellular mechanisms of actions, were investigated in Colo-205 human colon cancer cells. Tanshinone IIA reduced cell growth in a concentration-dependent manner, inducing apoptosis accompanied by an increase in TUNEL staining and by an increased percentage of cells in the sub-G1 fraction. The expression of p53 and p21 and mitochondrial cytochrome c release were increased in tanshinone IIA-treated cells. In addition, the expression of Fas proteins was up-regulated by tanshinone IIA. Tanshinone IIA-induced catalytic activation of caspases was confirmed by cleavage of caspase-8 and caspase-3. These findings suggest that tanshinone IIA induces apoptosis in Colo-205 cells through both mitochondrial-mediated intrinsic and Fas-mediated extrinsic caspase cell-death pathways. Accordingly, the chemotherapeutic potential of tanshinone IIA for colon cancer warrants further study.

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