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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 417928, 12 pages
Research Article

Crocus sativus L. (Saffron) Stigma Aqueous Extract Induces Apoptosis in Alveolar Human Lung Cancer Cells through Caspase-Dependent Pathways Activation

1Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Neyshabur Faculty of Medicine, Neyshabur, Iran
2Health Strategic Research Center, Neyshabur Faculty of Medicine, Neyshabur, Iran
3Medical Toxicology Research Centre, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran
4Immunology Research Center, Bu-Ali Research Institute, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran

Received 23 April 2013; Revised 10 July 2013; Accepted 11 July 2013

Academic Editor: Anne Hamburger

Copyright © 2013 Saeed Samarghandian et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Worldwide, lung cancer is the most common form of cancer. Saffron has been used in folk medicine for centuries. We investigated the potential of saffron to induce cytotoxic and apoptotic effects in lung cancer cells (A549). We also examined the caspase-dependent pathways activation of saffron-induced apoptosis against the A549 cells. A549 cells were incubated with different concentrations of saffron extract; then cell morphological changes, cell viability, and apoptosis were determined by the normal invertmicroscope, MTT assay, Annexin V and propidium iodide, and flow cytometric analysis, respectively. Activated caspases were detected by treatment of saffron in lung cancer cells using fluorescein-labeled inhibitors of polycaspases. The proliferation of the A549 cells were decreased after treatment with saffron in a dose- and time-dependent manner. The percentage of apoptotic cells increased with saffron concentrations. Saffron induced morphological changes, decreased percentage of viable cells, and induced apoptosis. Saffron could induce apoptosis in the A549 cells and activate caspase pathways. The levels of caspases involved in saffron-induced apoptosis in the A549 cells indicating caspase-dependent pathway were induced by saffron. The anticancer activity of the aqueous extract of saffron could be attributed partly to its inhibition of the cell proliferation and induction of apoptosis in cancer cells through caspase-dependent pathways activation.