Research Papers:

TQ inhibits hepatocellular carcinoma growth in vitro and in vivo via repression of Notch signaling

Xiquan Ke, Yan Zhao, Xinlan Lu, Zhe Wang, Yuanyuan Liu, Mudan Ren, Guifang Lu, Dan Zhang, Zhenguo Sun, Zhipeng Xu, Jee Hoon Song, Yulan Cheng, Stephen J. Meltzer and Shuixiang He _

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Oncotarget. 2015; 6:32610-32621. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.5362

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Xiquan Ke1, Yan Zhao1, Xinlan Lu1, Zhe Wang2, Yuanyuan Liu3, Mudan Ren1, Guifang Lu1, Dan Zhang1, Zhenguo Sun4, Zhipeng Xu5, Jee Hoon Song6, Yulan Cheng6, Stephen J. Meltzer6, Shuixiang He1

1Department of Gastroenterology, the First Affiliated Hospital, School of Medicine, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an, Shaanxi 710061, P.R. China

2Department of Gastroenterology, Tongji Hospital, Tongji University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200065, P.R. China

3Department of Gastroenterology, Xi’an Central Hospital, Xi’an, Shaanxi 710000, P.R. China

4Department of Thoracic Surgery, Provincial Hospital Affiliated to Shandong University, Jinan, Shandong 250021, P.R. China

5Department of Gastroenterology, the Second Affiliated Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310009, P.R. China

6Division of Gastroenterology, Departments of Medicine and Oncology and Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA

Correspondence to:

Shuixiang He, e-mail: [email protected]

Stephen J. Meltzer, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: thymoquinone, hepatocellular carcinoma, Notch, cell cycle, apoptosis

Received: May 29, 2015     Accepted: September 10, 2015     Published: September 21, 2015


Thymoquinone (TQ) has been reported to possess anti-tumor activity in various types of cancer. However, its effects and molecular mechanism of action in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are still not completely understood. We observed that TQ inhibited tumor cell growth in vitro, where treatment with TQ arrested the cell cycle in G1 by upregulating p21 and downregulating cyclinD1 and CDK2 expression; moreover, TQ induced apoptosis by decreasing expression of Bcl-2 and increasing expression of Bax. Simultaneously, TQ demonstrated a suppressive impact on the Notch pathway, where overexpression of NICD1 reversed the inhibitory effect of TQ on cell proliferation, thereby attenuating the repressive effects of TQ on the Notch pathway, cyclinD1, CDK2 and Bcl-2, and also diminishing upregulation of p21 and Bax. In a xenograft model, TQ inhibited HCC growth in nude mice; this inhibitory effect in vivo, as well as of HCC cell growth in vitro, was associated with a discernible decline in NICD1 and Bcl-2 levels and a dramatic rise in p21 expression. In conclusion, TQ inhibits HCC cell growth by inducing cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, achieving these effects by repression of the Notch signaling pathway, suggesting that TQ represents a potential preventive or therapeutic agent in HCC patients.

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