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Cancer Cell Int. 2019 Jun 3;19:153. doi: 10.1186/s12935-019-0873-3. eCollection 2019.

β-Asarone increases doxorubicin sensitivity by suppressing NF-κB signaling and abolishes doxorubicin-induced enrichment of stem-like population by destabilizing Bmi1.

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2Department of Hematology, Wuming Hospital of Guangxi Medical University, Nanning, China.
3Department of Hematology, Affiliated Hospital of Youjiang Medical University for Nationalities, Baise, China.
5Department of Medical Oncology, Wuming Hospital of Guangxi Medical University, Nanning, China.
1Department of Medical Oncology of The Eastern Hospital, The First Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-sen University, No. 58, Zhong Shan Er Lu, Guangzhou, 510080 China.
4Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Orthopedics and Traumatology, The First Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China.
Contributed equally



Lymphoma is one of the most common hematologic malignancy. Drug resistance is the main obstacle faced in lymphoma treatment. Cancer stem cells are considered as the source of tumor recurrence, metastasis and drug resistance. The β-Asarone, a low-toxicity compound from the traditional medical herb Acorus calamus, has been shown to act as an anti-cancer reagent in various cancer types. However, the anti-cancer activities of β-Asarone in lymphoma have not been shown.


Cell counting assay was used to evaluate Raji cell proliferation. CCK8 assay was used to evaluate the cell viability. Annexin-V/PI staining and flow cytometry analysis were used to evaluate apoptosis. ALDEFLUOR assay was used to evaluate the stem-like population. Luciferase reporter assay was used to examine the activation of NF-κB signaling. Western blot and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) were used to determine the expression of interested genes.


We showed that β-Asarone inhibited proliferation and induced apoptosis in Raji lymphoma cells in a dose-dependent manner. Additionally, β-Asarone functioned as a sensitizer of doxorubicin and resulted in synergistic effects on inhibition of proliferation and induction of apoptosis when combined with doxorubicin treatment. Interestingly, we found that β-Asarone also reduced the stem-like population of Raji lymphoma cells in a dose-dependent manner, and suppressed the expression of c-Myc and Bmi1. Importantly, β-Asarone abolished doxorubicin-induced enrichment of the stem-like population. In the mechanism study, we revealed that β-Asarone suppressed not only basal NF-κB activity but also Tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) induced NF-κB activity. Moreover, blocking NF-κB signaling inactivation was critical for β-Asarone induced apoptosis and inhibition of proliferation, but not for the effect on β-Asarone reduced stem-like population. In fact, β-Asarone suppressed stem-like population by destabilizing Bmi1 via a proteasome-mediated mechanism.


Our data suggested the application of β-Asarone to lower the toxic effect of doxorubicin and increase the sensitivity of doxorubicin in clinical treatment. More importantly, our data revealed a novel role of β-Asarone which could be used to eliminate stem-like population in lymphoma, implying that β-Asarone might reduce relapse and drug resistance.


Bmi1; Cancer stem cell; Doxorubicin; Lymphoma; NF-κB; Natural compounds; Synergistic cytotoxic effects; β-Asarone

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