Luteolin (3',4',5,7-tetrahydroxyflavone), which exists in fruits, vegetables, and medicinal herbs, is used in Chinese traditional medicine for treating various diseases, such as hypertension, inflammatory disorders, and cancer. However, the gene-regulatory role of luteolin in cancer prevention and therapy has not been clarified. Herein, we demonstrated that treatment with luteolin resulted in a significant decrease in the viability of human leukemia cells. In the present study, by evaluating fragmentation of DNA and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP), we found that luteolin was able to induce PARP cleavage and nuclear fragmentation as well as an increase in the sub-G0/G1 fraction. In addition, luteolin also induced Fas and Fas ligand (FasL) expressions and subsequent activation of caspases-8 and -3, which can trigger the extrinsic apoptosis pathway, while knocking down Fas-associated protein with death domain (FADD) prevented luteolin-induced PARP cleavage. Immunoblot and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) analyses revealed that luteolin increased acetylation of histone H3, which is involved in the upregulation of Fas and FasL. Moreover, both the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) pathways are involved in luteolin-induced histone H3 acetylation. Finally, luteolin also activated the c-Jun signaling pathway, which contributes to FasL, but not Fas, gene expression and downregulation of c-Jun expression by small interfering RNA transfection which resulted in a significant decrease in luteolin-induced PARP cleavage. Thus, our results demonstrate that luteolin induced apoptosis of HL-60 cells, and this was associated with c-Jun activation and histone H3 acetylation-mediated Fas/FasL expressions.
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