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The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of mangiferin on gastric carcinoma cells and to determine the possible mechanisms underlying such effects. The MTT assay was performed to evaluate the antiproliferative effect of mangiferin. Following treatment, apoptosis rates of SGC-7901 were established by flow cytometry and laser confocal microscopy, and western blot analysis was used to detect the expression of apoptosis-related proteins. The MTT assay showed that mangiferin inhibited the proliferation of SGC-7901 and BCG-823 cells in a dose-dependent and time-dependent manner. After SGC-7901 cells were exposed to mangiferin for 24, 48 and 72 h, the half-maximal inhibitory concentration values were 16.00, 8.63 and 4.79 µmol/l, respectively. SGC-7901 cell apoptosis induced by mangiferin was observed by Annexin V/PI doubling staining and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling-positive staining. We found a significant decrease in Bcl-2, Bcl-xL and Mcl-1 expression and a significant increase in Bax, Bad and cleaved caspase-3 and caspase-9 expression in SGC-7901 cells by mangiferin treatment. Moreover, mangiferin significantly decreased the levels of p-PI3K, p-Akt and p-mTOR, but had no effects on those of PI3K, Akt and mTOR in epidermal growth factor-treated SGC-7901 cells. Interestingly, the proapoptotic effect of mangiferin on SGC-7901 cells was partially blocked by the Akt activator SC79, whereas LY294002 significantly increased mangiferin-induced apoptosis and growth inhibition. Taken together, our findings indicate that mangiferin effectively inhibits cell growth and induces apoptosis of gastric cancer cells through inhibiting the PI3K/Akt pathways with relative safety, and may be used as a novel chemotherapeutic agent against gastric cancer.