Objectives: We investigated the apoptotic activities of acrofolione A (1) and B (2) isolated from Acronychia pedunculata against a human pre-B cell leukaemia cell line (NALM-6) to explore the apoptosis-related signalling molecules targeted by 1 and 2. Methods: The apoptosis effects of 1 and 2 in NALM-6 cells were investigated by TUNEL staining, annexin V, mitochondria membrane potential and caspase 3/7 activity. We carried out a protein array to explore the signalling molecules involved in apoptosis comprehensively. Key findings: Acrofolione A (1) suppressed the growth of NALM-6, K562 and HPB-ALL cells (IC 50 16.7 ± 1.9, 17.9 ± 0.3 and 10.1 ± 0.2 μm, respectively) more effectively than acrofolione B (2). Both compounds time-dependently increased the number of NALM-6 cells with abnormal nuclei, and increased the number of annexin V-positive cells and decreased the mitochondrial membrane potential of NALM-6 cells. Acrofolione A (1) markedly elevated caspase 3/7 activity and increased the number of TUNEL-positive cells. Cells treated with either compound showed enhanced expression of cleaved PARP and cleaved caspase 3 and 7, and reduced survivin protein levels. Conclusions: Acrofolione A (1) and B (2) may be useful in the treatment of various types of leukaemia.
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