Apigenin (4',5,7-trihydroxyflavone), a flavonoid commonly found in fruits and vegetables, has anticancer properties in various malignant cancer cells. However, the molecular basis of the anticancer effect remains to be elucidated. In this study, we investigated the cellular mechanisms underlying the induction of cell cycle arrest by apigenin. Our results showed that apigenin at the nonapoptotic induction concentration inhibited cell proliferation and induced cell cycle arrest at the G2/M phase in the MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell line. Immunoblot analysis indicated that apigenin suppressed the expression of cyclin A, cyclin B, and cyclin-dependent kinase-1 (CDK1), which control the G2-to-M phase transition in the cell cycle. In addition, apigenin upregulated p21WAF1/CIP1 and increased the interaction of p21WAF1/CIP1 with proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), which inhibits cell cycle progression. Furthermore, apigenin significantly inhibited histone deacetylase (HDAC) activity and induced histone H3 acetylation. The subsequent chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assay indicated that apigenin increased acetylation of histone H3 in the p21WAF1/CIP1 promoter region, resulting in the increase of p21WAF1/CIP1 transcription. In a tumor xenograft model, apigenin effectively delayed tumor growth. In these apigenin-treated tumors, we also observed reductions in the levels of cyclin A and cyclin B and increases in the levels of p21WAF1/CIP1 and acetylated histone H3. These findings demonstrate for the first time that apigenin can be used in breast cancer prevention and treatment through epigenetic regulation.
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