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J Cancer Prev. 2014 Dec;19(4):273-8. doi: 10.15430/JCP.2014.19.4.273.

Induction of Cell Cycle Arrest and Apoptosis by Physcion, an Anthraquinone Isolated From Rhubarb (Rhizomes of Rheum tanguticum), in MDA-MB-231 Human Breast Cancer Cells.

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College of Pharmacy, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.
College of Pharmacy, Chungnam National University, Daejeon, Korea.



Physcion is an anthraquinone from rhubarb (rhizomes of Rheum tanguticum) and has been reported to have anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, antifungal, and anti-cancer activities. However, the growth inhibitory activity against human cancer cells and the underlying molecular mechanisms have been poorly determined. This study was designed to investigate the anti-proliferative activity of physcion by induction of cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in human MDA-MB-231 triple negative breast cancer cell line.


MDA-MB-231 cells were treated with physcion, and the anti-proliferative activity was evaluated by the sulforhodamine B assay. The mechanisms of action for the growth inhibitory activity of physcion were evaluated by flow cytometry for cell cycle distribution, and by Western blot for the assessment of potential target proteins.


Physcion showed a significant anti-proliferative activity against MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cells. Flow cytometric analysis indicated that physcion markedly induced the accumulation of cells in the G0/G1 phase and the increase of cell population in the sub-G1 phase. The G0/G1 cell cycle arrest by physcion was associated with the down-regulation of Cyclin D1, Cyclin A, CDK4, CDK2, c-Myc and phosphorylated Rb protein expressions. The increase of sub-G1 peak by physcion was closely correlated with the induction of apoptosis, which was confirmed by the induction of cleaved poly-(adenosine diphosphate ribose) polymerase, activation of Caspases, and suppression of Bid and Bcl-2 expression.


The induction of G0/G1 cell cycle arrest and apoptosis might be one of the plausible mechanisms of actions for the anti-proliferative activity of physcion in human breast cancer cells.


Apoptosis; Breast neoplasms; Cell cycle arrest; Physcion; Rhubarb

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