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Artesunate inhibits the growth and induces apoptosis of human gastric cancer cells by downregulating COX-2

Authors Zhang P, Luo H, Li M, Tan S

Received 16 January 2015

Accepted for publication 16 March 2015

Published 16 April 2015 Volume 2015:8 Pages 845—854


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Faris Farassati

Ping Zhang, He-Sheng Luo, Ming Li, Shi-yun Tan

Department of Gastroenterology, Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan, Hubei Province, People’s Republic of China

Abstract: Artesunate, a derivative of artemisinin isolated from Artemisia annua L., has been traditionally used to treat malaria, and artesunate has demonstrated cytotoxic effects against a variety of cancer cells. However, there is little available information about the antitumor effects of artesunate on human gastric cancer cells. In the present study, we investigated the antitumor effect of artesunate on human gastric cancer cells and whether its antitumor effect is associated with reduction in COX-2 expression. The effects of artesunate on the growth and apoptosis of gastric cancer cells were investigated by 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay, flow cytometric analysis of annexin V–fluorescein isothiocyanate/propidium iodide staining, rhodamine 123 staining, and Western blot analysis. Results indicate that artesunate exhibits antiproliferative effects and apoptosis-inducing activities. Artesunate markedly inhibited gastric cancer cell proliferation in a time- and dose-dependent manner and induced apoptosis in gastric cancer cells a dose-dependent manner, which was associated with a reduction in COX-2 expression. Treatment with the selective COX-2 inhibitor celecoxib, or transient transfection of gastric cancer cells with COX-2 siRNA, also inhibited cell proliferation and induced apoptosis. Furthermore, the treatment with artesunate promoted the expression of proapoptotic factor Bax and suppressed the expression of antiapoptotic factor Bcl-2. In addition, caspase-3 and caspase-9 were activated, and artesunate induced loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, suggesting that the apoptosis is mediated by mitochondrial pathways. These results demonstrate that artesunate has an effect on anti-gastric cancer cells. One of the antitumor mechanisms of artesunate may be that its inhibition of COX-2 led to reduced proliferation and induction of apoptosis, connected with mitochondrial dysfunction. Artesunate might be a potential therapeutic agent for gastric cancer.

Keywords: artesunate, gastric cancer cells, COX-2, apoptosis

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