Pentoxifylline induces apoptosis of HepG2 cells by reducing reactive oxygen species production and activating the MAPK signaling

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Abstract

Aims:

Pentoxifylline (PTX) is a methylxanthine derivative and has potent anti-tumor activity. This study aimed at investigating the anti-HCC effects of PTX and associated molecular mechanisms.

Main methods:

The effects of varying doses of PTX on viability, cell cycle and apoptosis of HepG2 cells were determined by MTT and flow cytometry, respectively. The effects of PTX on the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), expression of pro- and anti-apoptotic regulators and activation of the MAPK signaling in HepG2 cells were analyzed by flow cytometry and Western blot assays. The effects of PTX on the growth of implanted HepG2 cells and their apoptosis in mice were examined.

Key findings:

Our results indicated that PTX inhibited proliferation of HepG2 cells and induced HepG2 cell cycle arrest at G0/G1 phase and apoptosis in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Treatment with PTX reduced levels of ROS and Bcl-XL expression, but increased caspase 3 and caspase 9 expression and JNK and ERK1/2 phosphorylation in HepG2 cells. Pre-treatment with n-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC), a ROS scavenger, enhanced PTX-mediated cell cycle arrest, apoptosis and the JNK and ERK MAPK activation, while pre-treatment with SP600125 or PD98509 attenuated PTX-mediated effects in HepG2 cells. Treatment with PTX inhibited the growth of implanted HCC and promoted HCC apoptosis in mice.

Significance:

Our data demonstrate that PTX inhibits proliferation of HepG2 cells and induces HepG2 cell apoptosis by attenuating ROS production and enhancing the MAPK activation in HepG2 cells.

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