Indexed on: 24 May '07Published on: 24 May '07Published in: Planta medica
We have previously reported that gypenosides induce apoptosis in human hepatocarcinoma Huh-7 cells through a mitochondria-dependent caspase-9 activation cascade. In order to further explore the critical events leading to apoptosis in gypenosides-treated cells, the following effects of gypenosides on components of the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway were examined: generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), alteration of the mitochondrial membrane potential (MPT), and the subcellular distribution of Bcl-2 and Bax. We show that gypenosides-induced apoptosis was accompanied by the generation of intracellular ROS, disruption of MPT, and inactivation of ERK, as well as an increase in mitochondrial Bax and a decrease of mitochondrial Bcl-2 levels. Ectopic expression of Bcl-2 or treatment with furosemide attenuated gypenosides-triggered apoptosis. Treatment with ATA caused a drastic prevention of apoptosis and the gypenosides-mediated mitochondrial Bcl-2 decrease and Bax increase, but failed to inhibit ROS generation and MPT dysfunction. Incubation with antioxidants significantly inhibited gypenosides-mediated ROS generation, ERK inactivation, MPT and apoptosis. Moreover, an increase of the intracellular calcium ion (Ca(2+)) concentration rapidly occurred in gypenosides-treated Huh-7 cells. Buffering of the intracellular Ca(2+) increase with a Ca(2+) chelator BAMTA/AM blocked the gypenosides-elicited ERK inactivation, ROS generation, Bcl-2/Bax redistribution, mitochondrial dysfunction, and apoptosis. Based on these results, we propose that the rise in intracellular Ca(2+) concentration plays a pivotal role in the initiation of gypenosides-triggered apoptotic death.