Honokiol, an active constituent extracted from the bark of Magnolia officinalis, possesses anticancer effects. Apoptosis is classified as type I programmed cell death, while autophagy is type II programmed cell death. We previously proved that honokiol induces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis of U87 MG glioma cells. Subsequently in this study, we evaluated the effect of honokiol on autophagy of glioma cells and examined the molecular mechanisms. Administration of honokiol to mice with an intracranial glioma increased expressions of cleaved caspase 3 and light chain 3 (LC3)-II. Exposure of U87 MG cells to honokiol also induced autophagy in concentration- and time-dependent manners. Results from the addition of 3-methyladenine, an autophagy inhibitor, and rapamycin, an autophagy inducer confirmed that honokiol-induced autophagy contributed to cell death. Honokiol decreased protein levels of PI3K, phosphorylated (p)-Akt, and p-mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) in vitro and in vivo. Pretreatment with a p53 inhibitor or transfection with p53 small interfering (si)RNA suppressed honokiol-induced autophagy by reversing downregulation of p-Akt and p-mTOR expressions. In addition, honokiol caused generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which was suppressed by the antioxidant, vitamin C. Vitamin C also inhibited honokiol-induced autophagic and apoptotic cell death. Concurrently, honokiol-induced alterations in levels of p-p53, p53, p-Akt, and p-mTOR were attenuated following vitamin C administration. Taken together, our data indicated that honokiol induced ROS-mediated autophagic cell death through regulating the p53/PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-69
Number of pages11
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Journal Article


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