Quercetin, a naturally occurring flavonoid abundant in fruits and vegetables, has been demonstrated as a multipotent bioflavonoid with great potential for the prevention and treatment of cancer. Apoptosis is thought to be an important response to most chemotherapeutic agents in leukemia cells. However, the underlying mechanism of induction of apoptosis by quercetin involving epigenetic regulation is poorly understood. In the present study, by evaluation of fragmentation of DNA, poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) and procaspases, we found that quercetin was able to induce apoptosis of human leukemia HL-60 cells in a dose-dependent manner. Quercetin triggered the extrinsic apoptosis pathway through activation of caspase-8 and induction of Bid cleavage, Bax conformation change and cytochrome c release. Furthermore, quercetin induced Fas ligand (FasL) expression involving activation of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and Jun N-terminus kinase (JNK) signaling pathways. In addition to activation of c-Jun, quercetin increased histone H3 acetylation which resulted in the promotion of the expression of FasL. Quercetin exhibited potential for the activation of histone acetyltransferase (HAT) and the inhibition of histone deacetyltransferase (HADC), both of which contributed to histone acetylation. However, only the activation effect on HAT was associated with the ERK and JNK pathway. These results demonstrated that quercetin induced FasL-related apoptosis by transactivation through activation of c-jun/AP-1 and promotion of histone H3 acetylation in HL-60 cells.
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