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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 719858, 11 pages
Research Article

Alantolactone Induces Apoptosis in HepG2 Cells through GSH Depletion, Inhibition of STAT3 Activation, and Mitochondrial Dysfunction

1Central Research Laboratory, Jilin University Bethune Second Hospital, Changchun 130041, China
2Department of Zoology, University of the Punjab, Quaid-e-Azam Campus, Lahore 54590, Pakistan
3Key Laboratory of Inorganic Synthesis and Preparative Chemistry, Jilin University, Qianjin Street, Changchun 130012, China

Received 2 August 2012; Revised 24 October 2012; Accepted 24 October 2012

Academic Editor: D. M. Clarke

Copyright © 2013 Muhammad Khan 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.


Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) constitutively expresses in human liver cancer cells and has been implicated in apoptosis resistance and tumorigenesis. Alantolactone, a sesquiterpene lactone, has been shown to possess anticancer activities in various cancer cell lines. In our previous report, we showed that alantolactone induced apoptosis in U87 glioblastoma cells via GSH depletion and ROS generation. However, the molecular mechanism of GSH depletion remained unexplored. The present study was conducted to envisage the molecular mechanism of alantolactone-induced apoptosis in HepG2 cells by focusing on the molecular mechanism of GSH depletion and its effect on STAT3 activation. We found that alantolactone induced apoptosis in HepG2 cells in a dose-dependent manner. This alantolactone-induced apoptosis was found to be associated with GSH depletion, inhibition of STAT3 activation, ROS generation, mitochondrial transmembrane potential dissipation, and increased Bax/Bcl-2 ratio and caspase-3 activation. This alantolactone-induced apoptosis and GSH depletion were effectively inhibited or abrogated by a thiol antioxidant, N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC). The data demonstrate clearly that intracellular GSH plays a central role in alantolactone-induced apoptosis in HepG2 cells. Thus, alantolactone may become a lead chemotherapeutic candidate for the treatment of liver cancer.