Ursolic acid triggers calcium-dependent apoptosis in human Daudi cells

Anticancer Drugs. 2000 Oct;11(9):737-45. doi: 10.1097/00001813-200010000-00011.


Ursolic acid (UA) is a pentacyclic triterpenoid compound which occurs naturally in a large variety of vegetarian foods, medicinal herbs and plants. In the present study, ursolic acid was found to decrease cell viability in human lymphoma Daudi cells in a dose-dependent manner. UA also induced morphological changes in cells as well as loss of membrane asymmetry, DNA fragmentation and nuclei condensation, indicating that the mechanism by which UA induced cell death was through apoptosis. Treatment with UA increased intracellular Ca2+ levels. Use of Ca2+ channel inhibitors like verapamil blocked this Ca2+ influx and also the triggering of apoptosis. We hypothesized that the binding of UA to glucocorticoid receptors and the Ca2+ currents induced constituted the first steps of apoptosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / toxicity*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • B-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • B-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Burkitt Lymphoma / drug therapy
  • Burkitt Lymphoma / metabolism
  • Burkitt Lymphoma / pathology*
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calcium / physiology*
  • Calcium Signaling / drug effects
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Inhibitory Concentration 50
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Triterpenes / toxicity*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Triterpenes
  • ursolic acid
  • Calcium