Justicia procumbens is a traditional Taiwanese herbal remedy used to treat fever, pain, and cancer. Justicidin A, isolated from Justicia procumbens, has been reported to suppress in vitro growth of several tumor cell lines as well as hepatoma cells. In this study, justicidin A activated caspase-8 to increase tBid, disrupted mitochondrial membrane potential (Δψm), and caused the release of cytochrome c and Smac/DIABLO in Hep 3B and Hep G2 cells. Justicidin A also reduced Bcl-xL and increased Bax and Bak in mitochondria. Caspase-8 inhibitor (Z-IETD) attenuated the justicidin A-induced disruption of Δψm. Growth of Hep 3B implanted in NOD-SCID mice was suppressed significantly by oral justicidin A (20 mg/kg/day). These results indicate that justicidin A-induced apoptosis in these cells proceeds via caspase-8 and is followed by mitochondrial disruption. Supplementary materials are available at http://myweb.ncku.edu.tw/~a725/.
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