Plant-derived compounds are an important source of clinically useful anti-cancer agents. Chrysin, a biologically active flavone found in many plants, has limited usage for cancer chemotherapeutics due to its poor oral bioavailability. 5-Hydroxy-7-methoxyflavone (HMF), an active natural chrysin derivative found in various plant sources, is known to modulate several biological activities. However, the mechanism underlying HMF-induced apoptotic cell death in human colorectal carcinoma cells in vitro is still unknown. Herein, HMF was shown to be capable of inducing cytotoxicity in HCT-116 cells and induced cell death in a dose-dependent manner. Treatment of HCT-116 cells with HMF caused DNA damage and triggered mitochondrial membrane perturbation accompanied by Cyt c release, down-regulation of Bcl-2, activation of BID and Bax, and caspase-3-mediated apoptosis. These results show that ROS generation by HMF was the crucial mediator behind ER stress induction, resulting in intracellular Ca2+ release, JNK phosphorylation, and activation of the mitochondrial apoptosis pathway. Furthermore, time course study also reveals that HMF treatment leads to increase in mitochondrial and cytosolic ROS generation and decrease in antioxidant enzymes expression. Temporal upregulation of IRE1-α expression and JNK phosphorylation was noticed after HMF treatment. These results were further confirmed by pretreatment with the ROS scavenger N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC), which completely reversed the effects of HMF treatment by preventing lipid peroxidation, followed by abolishment of JNK phosphorylation and attenuation of apoptogenic marker proteins. These results emphasize that ROS generation by HMF treatment regulates the mitochondrial-mediated apoptotic signaling pathway in HCT-116 cells, demonstrating HMF as a promising pro-oxidant therapeutic candidate for targeting colorectal cancer.
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© 2016 Bhardwaj et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.