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Xanthohumol induces apoptosis in human malignant glioblastoma cells by increasing reactive oxygen species and activating MAPK pathways

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Michela Festa
  • Anna Capasso
  • Cosimo W D'Acunto
  • Milena Masullo
  • Adriano G Rossi
  • Cosimo Pizza
  • Sonia Piacente

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2505-13
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of natural products
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2011


The effect of the biologically active prenylated chalcone and potential anticancer agent xanthohumol (1) has been investigated on apoptosis of the T98G human malignant glioblastoma cell line. Compound 1 decreased the viability of T98G cells by induction of apoptosis in a time- and concentration-dependent manner. Apoptosis induced by 1 was associated with activation of caspase-3, caspase-9, and PARP cleavage and was mediated by the mitochondrial pathway, as exemplified by mitochondrial depolarization, cytochrome c release, and downregulation of the antiapoptotic Bcl-2 protein. Xanthohumol induced intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS), an effect that was reduced by pretreatment with the antioxidant N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC). Intracellular ROS production appeared essential for the activation of the mitochondrial pathway and induction of apoptosis after exposure to 1. Oxidative stress due to treatment with 1 was associated with MAPK activation, as determined by ERK1/2 and p38 phosphorylation. Phosphorylation of ERK1/2 and p38 was attenuated using NAC to inhibit ROS production. After treatment with 1, ROS provided a specific environment that resulted in MAPK-induced cell death, with this effect reduced by the ERK1/2 specific inhibitor PD98059 and partially inhibited by the p38 inhibitor SB203580. These findings suggest that xanthohumol (1) is a potential chemotherapeutic agent for the treatment of glioblastoma multiforme.

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