Hydroxylation at C4′ or C6 is essential for apoptosis-inducing activity of flavanone through activation of the caspase-3 cascade and production of reactive oxygen species

Ching Huai Ko, Shing Chuan Shen, Yen Chou Chen

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56 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies demonstrated that hydroxyl groups play important roles in the antioxidative activities of flavonoids; however, the importance of structurally related hydroxylation in their apoptosis-inducing activities is still undefined. In the present study, flavanone with hydroxylation at C4′ and C6 had a significant cytotoxic effect in human leukemia HL-60 cells accompanied by the occurrence of DNA ladders, apoptotic bodies, and hypodiploid cells, characteristics of apoptosis. The replacement of a hydroxyl group (OH) by a methoxyl (OCH3) group at C4′ or C6 attenuated the apoptotic effect in cells, and there was no significant cytotocity of flavanone or flavanone with OH or OCH3 in C7-treated HL-60 cells. Induction of enzyme activity of caspase-3 and -9, but not caspase-1 and -8, accompanied by release of cytocrome C from mitochondria to cytosol and the appearance of cleaved of PARP (85 kDa), D4-GDI (23 kDa), and caspase-3 (p17/p15) fragments, was identified in 4′-OH- or 6-OH- flavanone-treated HL-60 cells. Caspase-3 and -9 inhibitors Ac-DEVD-FMK and Ac-LEHD-FMK, but not caspase-1 and -8 inhibitors Ac-YVAD-FMK and Ac-LETD-FMK, attenuated 4′-OH- or 6-OH-flavanone-induced cell death. And, inhibition of capsase-9 activity by Ac-LEHD-FMK suppresses caspase-3 protein procession induced by 4′-OH- and 6-OH-flavanone, indicative of caspase-9 activation locating upstream of caspase-3. A decrease in the antiapoptotic protein Mcl-1 and increases in the pro-apoptotic proteins Bax and Bad were found in 4′-OH- or 6-OH-flavanone-treated HL-60 cells. Induction of endogenous ROS production was detected in 4′-OH- or 6-OH-flavanone-treated HL-60 cells by the DCHF-DA assay. Antioxidants such as N-acetylcysteine (NAC), catalase (CAT), superoxide dismutase (SOD), and allopurinol (ALL), but not pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate (PDTC) or diphenylene iodonium (DPI), significantly inhibited 4′-OH- or 6-OH-flavanone-induced ROS production, with blocking of the apoptosis induced by 4′-OH- or 6-OH-flavanone. The apoptosis-inducing activity of 4′-OH- or 6-OH-flavanone was also observed in another leukemia cell line (Jurkat), but was not found in mature monocytic cells (THP-1) and normal human polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs). This suggests that hydroxylation at C4′ or C6 is important to the apoptosis-inducing activities of flavanone through ROS production, and that activation of the caspase-3 cascade, downstream of caspase-9 activation, is involved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)897-910
Number of pages14
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2004


  • 4′-OH-flavanone
  • 6-OH-flavanone
  • Acetyl-Asp-Glu-Val-Asp-fluoromethylketone
  • Acetyl-Ile-Glu-Thr-Asp-fluoromethylketone
  • Apoptosis
  • Caspase 3
  • Free radicals
  • Reactive oxygen species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology (medical)


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