[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Baicalein is a purified flavonoid extracted from the roots of Scutellaria baicalensis or Scutellaria radix. Although previous studies have suggested that Baicalein possesses an in vitro anti-hepatocellular carcinoma activity, its in vivo effects and mechanisms of action are still not completely understood. In this study, Baicalein at concentrations of 40-120 µM exhibited significant cytotoxicity to three hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell lines but marginal cytotoxicity to a normal liver cell line in vitro. Compared to a standard chemotherapy drug, 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), Baicalein had greater effect on HCC cells but less toxicity on normal liver cells. Treatment with Baicalein dramatically reduced mitochondrial transmembrane potential, and activated caspase-9 and caspase-3. Blockade of Baicalein-induced apoptosis with a pan-caspase inhibitor partially attenuated Baicalein-induced growth inhibition in HCC. Baicalein treatment significantly inhibited tumor growth of HCC xenografts in mice. Induction of apoptosis was demonstrated in Baicalein-treated xenograft tumors by the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) assay. Furthermore, Baicalein treatment dramatically decreased the levels of phosphorylation of MEK1, ERK1/2 and Bad in vitro and in vivo. Overexpression of human MEK1 partially blocked Baicalein-induced growth inhibition. Consequently, these findings suggest that Baicalein preferentially inhibits HCC tumor growth through inhibition of MEK-ERK signaling and by inducing intrinsic apoptosis.
International Journal of Oncology 06/2012; 41(3):969-78. · 2.77 Impact Factor