Am J Chin Med . 2017;45(2):369-384. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X17500239

Flavonoids and Tannins from Smilax china L. Rhizome Induce Apoptosis Via Mitochondrial Pathway and MDM2-p53 Signaling in Human Lung Adenocarcinoma Cells

San Fu  1 Yanfang Yang  1 Dan Liu  1 Yan Luo  1 Xiaochuan Ye  1 Yanwen Liu  1 Xin Chen  1 Song Wang  1 Hezhen Wu  1 Yuhang Wang  2 Qiwei Hu  2 Pengtao You  1

  • 1 * Key Laboratory of Resources and Chemistry of Chinese Medicine, Hubei University of Chinese Medicine, Wuhan, Hubei 430065, P.R. China.
  • 2 † School of Chemical Engineering and Pharmacy, Wuhan Institute of Technology, Wuhan, Hubei 430073, P.R. China.


In vitro evidence indicates that Smilax china L. rhizome (SCR) can inhibit cell proliferation. Therefore, in the present study, we analyzed the effects in vitro of SCR extracts on human lung adenocarcinoma A549 cells. Our results showed that A549 cell growth was inhibited in a dose- and time-dependent manner after treatment with SCR extracts. Total flavonoids and total tannins from SCR induced A549 apoptosis in a dose-dependent manner, as shown by our flow cytometry analysis, which was consistent with the alterations in nuclear morphology we observed. In addition, the total apoptotic rate induced by total tannins was higher than the rate induced by total flavonoids at the same dose. Cleaved-caspase-3 protein levels in A549 cells after treatment with total flavonoids or total tannins were increased in a dose-dependent manner, followed by the activation of caspase-8 and caspase-9, finally triggering to PARP cleavage. Furthermore, total flavonoids and total tannins increased the expression of Bax, decreased the expression of Bcl-2, and promoted cytochrome [Formula: see text] release. Moreover, MDM2 and p-MDM2 proteins were decreased, while p53 and p-p53 proteins were increased, both in a dose-dependent manner, after A549 treatment with total flavonoids and total tannins. Finally, cleaved-caspase-3 protein levels in the total flavonoids or total tannins-treated H1299 (p53 null) and p53-knockdown A549 cells were increased. Our results indicated that total flavonoids and total tannins from SCR exerted a remarkable effect in reducing A549 growth through their action on mitochondrial pathway and disruption of MDM2-p53 balance. Hence, our findings demonstrated a potential application of total flavonoids and total tannins from SCR in the treatment of human lung adenocarcinoma.

Keywords: A549 Cell; Apoptosis; MDM2; Mitochondrial Pathway; SCR Extracts; p53.