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Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2013 Jul;238(7):811-20. doi: 10.1177/1535370213492685. Epub 2013 Jun 20.

Thymoquinone-induced reactive oxygen species causes apoptosis of chondrocytes via PI3K/Akt and p38kinase pathway.

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Department of Biological Science, College of Natural Sciences, Kongju National University, Gongju, Chungnam 182, Republic of Korea.


Thymoquinone (TQ), a bioactive ingredient of the volatile oil of black seed (Nigella sativa), has been shown to possess anti-neoplastic and anti-inflammatory effects on a variety of tumours. However, the precise mechanism of action is not clear in normal cells such as primary chondrocytes. So, we have investigated the effects of TQ on the apoptosis of chondrocytes with a focus on reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. In in vitro experiments, chondrocytes were cultured with increasing concentrations of TQ for 24 h or with 20 ┬Ámol/L TQ for the indicated time periods, and various experiments were performed to detect the apoptotic effects caused by TQ. The results showed that TQ significantly increases apoptosis. Apoptosis was dose- and time-dependently expressed, and the generation of ROS also dramatically increased in a dose-dependent manner. Pretreatment of N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC), an inhibitor of ROS, inhibited both TQ-induced apoptosis and ROS generation. Also, TQ up-regulated phosphorylation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt (PI3K/Akt) and mitogen-activated protein kinases ([MAPKs] p38kinase, ERK-1/-2, and JNKinase), and these effects were prevented by pretreatment of NAC. However, pretreatment with inhibitors of PI3K/Akt and MAPKs did not inhibit TQ-caused ROS generation. Among the inhibitors of PI3K/Akt, p38kinase, ERK-1/-2, and JNKinase, pretreatment with LY294002 and SB203580 abolished TQ-induced apoptosis, but PD98059 and SP600125 did not have any effect on TQ-caused apoptosis. These findings suggest that TQ-induced ROS generation regulates apoptosis by modulating PI3K/Akt and p38kinase pathways.


Chondrocytes; Reactive oxygen species (ROS); Thymoquinone (TQ)

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