Quercetin induces cytochrome-c release and ROS accumulation to promote apoptosis and arrest the cell cycle in G2/M, in cervical carcinoma: signal cascade and drug-DNA interaction

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Abstract

Objectives

Small aromatic compounds like flavonoids can intercalate with DNA molecules bringing about conformational changes leading to reduced replication and transcription. Here, we have examined one dietary flavonoid, quercetin (found in many fruit and vegetables), for possible anti-cancer effects, on HeLa cells originally derived from a case of human cervical cancer.

Material and methods

By circular dichroism spectroscopy we tested whether quercetin effectively interacted with DNA to bring about conformational changes that would strongly inhibit proliferation and migration of the HeLa cells. Cytotoxic effects of quercetin on cancer/normal cells, if any, were determined by MTT assay and such depolarization of mitochondrial membrane potential, as a consequence of quercetin treatment, and accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) also were studied, by FACS analysis and expression profiles of different anti- and pro-apoptotic genes and their products were determined.

Results

Quercetin intercalated with calf thymus cell DNA and HeLa cell DNA and inhibition of anti-apoptotic AKT and Bcl-2 expression were observed. Levels of mitochondrial cytochrome-c were elevated and depolarization of mitochondrial membrane potential occurred with increase of ROS; upregulation of expression of p53 and caspase-3 activity were also noted. These alterations in signalling proteins and externalization of phosphotidyl serine residues were involved with initiation of apoptosis. Reduced AKT expression suggested reduction in cell proliferation and metastasis potential, with arrest of the cell cycle at G2/M.

Conclusion

Quercetin would have potential for use in cervical cancer chemotherapy.

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