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Oncotarget. 2017 Nov 20;8(69):113734-113748. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.22556. eCollection 2017 Dec 26.

Dietary quercetin potentiates the antiproliferative effect of interferon-α in hepatocellular carcinoma cells through activation of JAK/STAT pathway signaling by inhibition of SHP2 phosphatase.

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Key Laboratory of Natural Medicine and Clinical Translation, Chengdu Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu, China.
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria.
MOE Key Laboratory of Protein Sciences, Collaborative Innovation Center for Diagnosis and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, School of Life Sciences, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China.
Ningbo Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau Technical Center, Ningbo, China.


Type I interferons (IFN-α/β) have broad and potent immunoregulatory and antiproliferative activities, which are negatively regulated by Src homology domain 2 containing tyrosine phosphatase-2 (SHP-2). Inhibition of SHP2 by small molecules may be a new strategy to enhance the effcacy of type I IFNs. Using an in vitro screening assay for new inhibitors of SHP2 phosphatase, we found that quercetin was a potent inhibitor of SHP2. Computational modeling showed that quercetin exhibited an orientation favorable to nucleophilic attack in the phosphatase domain of SHP2. Quercetin enhanced the phosphorylation of signal transducer and activator of transcription proteins 1 (STAT1) and promoted endogenous IFN-α-regulated gene expression. Furthermore, quercetin also sensitized the antiproliferative effect of IFN-α on hepatocellular carcinoma HepG2 and Huh7 cells. The overexpression of SHP2 attenuated the effect of quercetin on IFN-α-stimulated STAT1 phosphorylation and antiproliferative effect, whereas the inhibition of SHP2 promoted the effect of quercetin on IFN-α-induced STAT1 phosphorylation and antiproliferative effect. The results suggested that quercetin potentiated the inhibitory effect of IFN-α on cancer cell proliferation through activation of JAK/STAT pathway signaling by inhibiting SHP2. Quercetin warrants further investigation as a novel therapeutic method to enhance the efficacy of IFN-α/β.


JAK; SHP2; STAT; interferon; quercetin

Conflict of interest statement

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST The authors have declared no conflicts of interest.

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