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Cancer Cell Int. 2010 May 4;10:14. doi: 10.1186/1475-2867-10-14.

A natural compound from Hydnophytum formicarium induces apoptosis of MCF-7 cells via up-regulation of Bax.

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School of Health Sciences, Health Campus, Universiti Sains Malaysia 16150 Kota Bharu, Kelantan.



Hydnophytum formicarium Jack is an epyphytic shrub that belongs to the family of Rubiaceae and is native to the tropical rain forests of the Asean region, which includes Malaysia. A flavanoid derivative, 7, 3', 5'-trihydroxyflavanone (3HFD), isolated from H. formicarium has been reported to have cytotoxic effects on the human breast carcinoma cell line MCF-7. The aim of the current study was to investigate the mode of cell death in MCF-7 cells treated with 3HFD. A DNA fragmentation assay was conducted on isolated genomic DNA, a TUNEL assay was used to determine the mode of cell death and Western blotting was used to evaluate the expression levels of Bax and Bcl-2. Immunofluorescence staining of MCF-7 cells was also performed to confirm the up-regulation of the Bax protein.


The ladder pattern resulting from the DNA fragmentation assay was a multimer of 180 kb. The morphological changes of cells undergoing apoptosis were visualised by a TUNEL assay over time. The percentage of apoptotic cells increased as early as 6 hours post treatment compared to untreated cells. Western blotting revealed up-regulation of the pro-apoptotic protein Bax. However, 3HFD did not affect expression of the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2.


Our results provide evidence that plant-derived 3HFD was able to induce the apoptotic cell death of MCF-7 cells by increasing Bax expression level and makes 3HFD a promising agent for chemotherapy, which merits further study.

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