Aciculatin induces p53-dependent apoptosis via MDM2 depletion in human cancer cells in vitro and in vivo

Chin Yu Lai, An Chi Tsai, Mei Chuan Chen, Li Hsun Chang, Hui Lung Sun, Ya Ling Chang, Chien Chih Chen, Che Ming Teng, Shiow Lin Pan

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31 Citations (Scopus)


Aciculatin, a natural compound extracted from the medicinal herb Chrysopogon aciculatus, shows potent anti-cancer potency. This study is the first to prove that aciculatin induces cell death in human cancer cells and HCT116 mouse xenografts due to G1 arrest and subsequent apoptosis. The primary reason for cell cycle arrest and cell death was p53 accumulation followed by increased p21 level, dephosphorylation of Rb protein, PUMA expression, and induction of apoptotic signals such as cleavage of caspase-9, caspase-3, and PARP. We demonstrated that p53 allele-null (-/-) (p53-KO) HCT116 cells were more resistant to aciculatin than cells with wild-type p53 (+/+). The same result was achieved by knocking down p53 with siRNA in p53 wild-type cells, indicating that p53 plays a crucial role in aciculatin-induced apoptosis. Although DNA damage is the most common event leading to p53 activation, we found only weak evidence of DNA damage after aciculatin treatment. Interestingly, the aciculatin-induced downregulation of MDM2, an important negative regulator of p53, contributed to p53 accumulation. The anti-cancer activity and importance of p53 after aciculatin treatment were also confirmed in the HCT116 xenograft models. Collectively, these results indicate that aciculatin treatment induces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis via inhibition of MDM2 expression, thereby inducing p53 accumulation without significant DNA damage and genome toxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere42192
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 13 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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