Anthocyanidins that are reddish pigments widely distributed in fruit and vegetables have been reported to possess antioxidant and anticancer activities. To understand the molecular basis of the putative anticancer activity of anthocyanidins, we investigated the antiproliferation effects of anthocyanidins in human hepatoma cell lines. Delphinidin, cyanidin, and malvidin exhibited strong growth inhibitory effects against human hepatoma HepG2, but were less effective against Hep3B. According to the appearance of the caspase-3 fragments and stimulated proteolytic cleavage of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) in time-dependent studies, delphinidin induced apoptotic cell death characterized by internucleosomal DNA fragmentation and caused a rapid induction of caspase-3 activity. RT-PCR and Western blot data revealed that delphinidin stimulated an increase in the c-Jun and JNK phosphorylation expression at mRNA and protein levels, respectively. Moreover, delphinidin-induced apoptotic cell death was accompanied by up-regulation of Bax and down-regulation of Bcl-2 protein. Dephinidin-induced DNA fragmentation was blocked by N-acetyl-L-cysteine and catalase, suggesting that the death signaling was triggered by oxidative stress. Our experiments provide evidence that delphinidin is an effective apoptosis inducer in HepG2 cells through regulation of Bcl-2 family moleculars and activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase cascade. The results suggest that induction of apoptosis by anthocyanidins is a pivotal mechanism of their cancer chemopreventive functions.
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