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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2013, Article ID 371813, 15 pages
Research Article

Pomegranate Bioactive Constituents Suppress Cell Proliferation and Induce Apoptosis in an Experimental Model of Hepatocellular Carcinoma: Role of Wnt/β-Catenin Signaling Pathway

1Cancer Therapeutics and Chemoprevention Group, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, Northeast Ohio Medical University, Rootstown, OH 44272, USA
2Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, American University of Health Sciences, Signal Hill, CA 90755, USA

Received 3 January 2013; Accepted 12 February 2013

Academic Editor: Ari M. Mackler

Copyright © 2013 Deepak Bhatia 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.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide, and chemoprevention represents a viable approach in lowering the mortality of this disease. Pomegranate fruit, an abundant source of anti-inflammatory phytochemicals, is gaining tremendous attention for its wide-spectrum health benefits. We previously reported that a characterized pomegranate emulsion (PE) prevents diethylnitrosamine (DENA)-induced rat hepatocarcinogenesis though inhibition of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-κB). Since NF-κB concurrently induces Wnt/β-catenin signaling implicated in cell proliferation, cell survival, and apoptosis evasion, we examined antiproliferative, apoptosis-inducing and Wnt/β-catenin signaling-modulatory mechanisms of PE during DENA rat hepatocarcinogenesis. PE (1 or 10 g/kg) was administered 4 weeks before and 18 weeks following DENA exposure. There was a significant increase in hepatic proliferation (proliferating cell nuclear antigen) and alteration in cell cycle progression (cyclin D1) due to DENA treatment, and PE dose dependently reversed these effects. PE substantially induced apoptosis by upregulating proapoptotic protein Bax and downregulating antiapoptotic protein Bcl-2. PE dose dependently reduced hepatic β-catenin and augmented glycogen synthase kinase-3β expression. Our study provides evidence that pomegranate phytochemicals exert chemoprevention of hepatic cancer through antiproliferative and proapoptotic mechanisms by modulating Wnt/β-catenin signaling. PE, thus, targets two interconnected molecular circuits (canonical NF-κB and Wnt/β-catenin pathways) to exert chemoprevention of HCC.