The development of drugs that selectively kill oral cancer cells but are less harmful to normal cells still provide several challenges. In this study, the antioral cancer effects of tenuifolide B (TFB), extracted from the stem of the plant Cinnamomum tenuifolium are evaluated in terms of their effects on cancer cell viability, cell cycle analysis, apoptosis, oxidative stress, and DNA damage. Cell viability of oral cancer cells (Ca9-22 and CAL 27) was found to be significantly inhibited by TFB in a dose-responsive manner in terms of ATP assay, yielding IC50 = 4.67 and 7.05 _M (24 h), but are less lethal to normal oral cells (HGF-1). Dose-responsive increases in subG1 populations as well as the intensities of flow cytometry-based annexin V/propidium iodide (PI) analysis and pancaspase activity suggested that apoptosis was inducible by TFB in these two types of oral cancer cells. Pretreatment with the apoptosis inhibitor (Z-VAD-FMK) reduced the annexin V intensity of these two TFB-treated oral cancer cells, suggesting that TFB induced apoptosis-mediated cell death to oral cancer cells. Cleaved-poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) and cleaved-caspases 3, 8, and 9 were upregulated in these two TFB-treated oral cancer cells over time but less harmful for normal oral HGF-1 cells. Dose-responsive and time-dependent increases in reactive oxygen species (ROS) and decreases in mitochondrial membrane potential (MitoMP) in these two TFB-treated oral cancer cells suggest that TFB may generate oxidative stress as measured by flow cytometry. N-acetylcysteine (NAC) pretreatment reduced the TFB-induced ROS generation and further validated that ROS was relevant to TFB-induced cell death. Both flow cytometry and Western blotting demonstrated that the DNA double strand marker H2AX dose-responsively increased in TFB-treated Ca9-22 cells and time-dependently increased in two TFB-treated oral cancer cells. Taken together, we infer that TFB can selectively inhibit cell proliferation of oral cancer cells through apoptosis, ROS generation, mitochondrial membrane depolarization, and DNA damage.
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