Flavonoids inhibit cell growth and induce apoptosis in B16 melanoma 4A5 cells

Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2000 Sep;64(9):1813-20. doi: 10.1271/bbb.64.1813.


We investigated the growth inhibitory activity of several flavonoids, including apigenin, luteolin, kaempherol, quercetin, butein, isoliquiritigenin, naringenin, genistein, and daizein against B16 mouse melanoma 4A5 cells. Isoliquiritigenin and butein, belonging to the chalcone group, markedly suppressed the growth of B16 melanoma cells and induced cell death. The other flavonoids tested showed little growth inhibitory activity and scarcely caused cell death. In cells treated with isoliquiritigenin or butein, condensation of nuclei and fragmentation of nuclear DNA, which are typical phenomena of apoptosis, were observed by Hoechst 33258 staining and by agarose gel electrophoresis of DNA. Flowcytometric analysis showed that isoliquiritigenin and butein increased the proportion of hypodiploid cells in the population of B16 melanoma cells. These results demonstrate that isoliquiritigenin and butein inhibit cell proliferation and induce apoptosis in B16 melanoma cells. Extracellular glucose decreased the proportion of hypodiploid cells that appeared as a result of isoliquiritigenin treatment. p53 was not detected in cells treated with either of these chalcones, however, protein of the Bcl-2 family were detected. The level of expression of Bax in cells treated with either of these chalcones was markedly elevated and the level of Bcl-XL decreased slightly. Isoliquiritigenin did not affect Bcl-2 expression, but butein down-regulated Bcl-2 expression. From these results, it seems that the pathway by which the chalcones induce apoptosis may be independent of p53 and dependent on proteins of the Bcl-2 family. It was supposed that isoliquiritigenin induces apoptosis in B16 cells by a mechanism involving inhibition of glucose transmembrane transport and promotion of Bax expression. On the other hand, it was suggested that butein induces apoptosis via down-regulation of Bcl-2 expression and promotion of Bax expression. This mechanism differs from the isoliquiritigenin induction pathway.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apigenin
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Chalcone / analogs & derivatives
  • Chalcone / toxicity
  • Chalcones
  • Flavanones*
  • Flavonoids / toxicity*
  • Genistein / toxicity
  • Isoflavones / toxicity
  • Luteolin
  • Melanoma, Experimental
  • Mice
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / analysis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / analysis
  • Quercetin / toxicity
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • bcl-X Protein


  • Bax protein, mouse
  • Bcl2l1 protein, mouse
  • Chalcones
  • Flavanones
  • Flavonoids
  • Isoflavones
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • bcl-X Protein
  • butein
  • Chalcone
  • daidzein
  • Apigenin
  • Quercetin
  • isoliquiritigenin
  • Genistein
  • naringenin
  • Luteolin