The flavonoid apigenin from Croton betulaster Mull inhibits proliferation, induces differentiation and regulates the inflammatory profile of glioma cells

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This study aimed to investigate the antitumor and immunomodulatory properties of the flavonoid apigenin (5,7,4′-trihydroxyflavone), which was extracted from Croton betulaster Mull, in glioma cell culture using the high-proliferative rat C6 glioma cell line as a model. Apigenin was found to have the ability to reduce the viability and proliferation of C6 cells in a time-dependent and dose-dependent manner, with an IC50 of 22.8 µmol/l, 40 times lower than that of temozolomide (1000 µmol/l), after 72 h of apigenin treatment. Even after C6 cells were treated with apigenin for 48 h, high proportions of C6 cells entered apoptosis (39.56%) and autophagy (22%) as shown by flow cytometry using annexin V/propidium iodide and acridine orange staining, respectively. In addition, the flavonoid apigenin induced cell accumulation in the G0/G1 phase of the cell cycle and inhibited glioma cell migration efficiently. Moreover, apigenin induced astroglial differentiation and morphological changes in C6 cells, characterized by increased expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein and decreased expression of nestin protein, a typical marker of neuronal precursors. The immunomodulating effects of apigenin were also characterized by a change in the inflammatory profile as evidenced by a significant decrease in interleukin-10 and tumor necrosis factor production and increased nitric oxide levels. Because apigenin can induce differentiation, apoptosis, and autophagy, can alter the profile of cytokines involved in regulating the immune response, and can reduce the survival, growth, proliferation, and migration of C6 cells, this flavonoid may be considered a potential antitumor drug for the adjuvant treatment of malignant gliomas.

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