Anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effect of carvacrol on human hepatocellular carcinoma cell line HepG-2

Yin QH, Yan FX, Zu XY, Wu YH, Wu XP, Liao MC, Deng SW, Yin LL, Zhuang YZ
Cytotechnology, 2012


Carvacrol is one of the members of monoterpene phenol and is present in the volatile oils of Thymus vulgarisCarum copticum, origanum and oregano. It is a safe food additive commonly used in our daily life, and few studies have indicated that carvacrol has anti-hepatocarcinogenic activities. The rationale of the study was to examine whether carvacrol affects apoptosis of human hepatoma HepG2 cells. In this study, we showed that carvacrol inhibited HepG2 cell growth by inducing apoptosis as evidenced by Hoechst 33258 stain and Flow cytometric (FCM) analysis. Incubation of HepG2 cells with carvacrol for 24 h induced apoptosis by the activation of caspase-3, cleavage of PARP and decreased Bcl-2 gene expression. These results demonstrated that a significant fraction of carvacrol treated cells died by an apoptotic pathway in HepG2 cells. Moreover, carvacrol selectively altered the phosphorylation state of members of the MAPK superfamily, decreasing phosphorylation of ERK1/2 significantly in a dose-dependent manner, and activated phosphorylation of p38 but not affecting JNK MAPK phosphorylation. These results suggest that carvacrol may induce apoptosis by direct activation of the mitochondrial pathway, and the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway may play an important role in the antitumor effect of carvacrol. These results have identified, for the first time, the biological activity of carvacrol in HepG2 cells and should lead to further development of carvacrol for liver disease therapy.


Yin QH, Yan FX, Zu XY, et al. Anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effect of carvacrol on human hepatocellular carcinoma cell line HepG-2. Cytotechnology. 2012;64(1):43-51.

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