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Int J Oncol. 2015 Mar;46(3):1405-11. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2014.2808. Epub 2014 Dec 23.

Inhibition of IL-6/STAT3 axis and targeting Axl and Tyro3 receptor tyrosine kinases by apigenin circumvent taxol resistance in ovarian cancer cells.

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Institute for Innovative Cancer Research, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul 138-736, Republic of Korea.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, School of Medicine, Yeungnam University, Daegu 705-717, Republic of Korea.


Ovarian cancer is the number one cause of death from gynaecological malignancy. Platinum-based and taxol-based chemotherapy has been used as a standard therapy, but intrinsic and acquired resistance to chemotherapy is a major obstacle to treat the disease. In the present study, we found that in the chemoresistant ovarian cancer SKOV3/TR cells, interleukin-6 (IL-6), IL-6 receptor and signal transducers and activators of transcription 3 (STAT3) expression as well as STAT3 phosphorylation were upregulated compared to those in parental cells. Silencing of IL-6 using IL-6 siRNA was found to suppress IL-6 production, STAT3 and phosphoSTAT3 levels, which eventually reduced proliferation and clonogenicity of taxol-resistant SKOV3/TR cells. In addition, stattic, a STAT3 inhibitor, was found to result in decrease of cell viability and clonogenicity of these cells, indicating that the elevated IL-6 and STAT3, phosphoSTAT3 levels are associated with the development of taxol resistance. Next, we found anti-proliferative effect of apigenin on both SKOV3 and SKOV3/TR cells. RT-PCR and western blot results showed that apigenin significantly reduced the expression of Axl and Tyro3 receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) at mRNA and protein level, which account for its cytotoxic activity. We further found that apigenin decreased Akt phosphorylation and the level of B-cell lymphoma-extra large (Bcl-xl or BCL2-like 1 isoform 1), an inhibitor of apoptosis. On the contrary to these results, apigenin had no effect on IL-6 production, STAT3 and phosphoSTAT3 protein levels, suggesting that apigenin exerts its anti-proliferative activity via downregulation of Axl and Tyro3 expression, Akt phosphorylation and Bcl-xl expression, but not modulation of IL-6/STAT3 axis. Taken together, our data suggest that inhibition of IL-6/STAT3 signaling pathway and downregulation of Axl and Tyro3 RTKs expression might be a therapeutic strategy to overcome taxol resistance in ovarian cancer cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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