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Cancer Lett. 2010 Feb 28;288(2):183-91. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2009.06.033. Epub 2009 Jul 19.

Rosmarinic acid sensitizes cell death through suppression of TNF-alpha-induced NF-kappaB activation and ROS generation in human leukemia U937 cells.

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Department of Marine Life Sciences, Jeju National University, Republic of Korea.


Because tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) is well-known to induce inflammatory responses, thus its clinical use is limited in cancer treatment. Rosmarinic acid (RA), a naturally occurring polyphenol flavonoid, has been reported to inhibit TNF-alpha-induced NF-kappaB activation in human dermal fibroblasts. However, the precise mechanisms of RA have not been well elucidated in TNF-alpha-mediated anti-cancer therapy. In this study, we found that RA treatment significantly sensitizes TNF-alpha-induced apoptosis in human leukemia U937 cells through the suppression of nuclear transcription factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) and reactive oxygen species (ROS). Activation of caspases in response to TNF-alpha was markedly increased by RA treatment. However, pretreatment with the caspase-3 inhibitor, z-DEVD-fmk, was capable of significantly restoring cell viability in response to combined treatment. RA also suppressed NF-kappaB activation through inhibition of phosphorylation and degradation of IkappaBalpha, and nuclear translocation of p50 and p65. This inhibition was correlated with suppression of NF-kappaB-dependent anti-apoptotic proteins (IAP-1, IAP-2, and XIAP). RA treatment also normalized TNF-alpha-induced ROS generation. Additionally, ectopic Bcl-2 expressing U937 reversed combined treatment-induced cell death, cytochrome c release into cytosol, and collapse of mitochondrial potential. These results demonstrated that RA inhibits TNF-alpha-induced ROS generation and NF-kappaB activation, and enhances TNF-alpha-induced apoptosis.

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