Tetrandrine-induced cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in A549 human lung carcinoma cells

Int J Oncol. 2002 Dec;21(6):1239-44.


Tetrandrine, isolated from the root of Stephania tetrandra, has been used in Chinese medicine for the treatment of silicosis and arthritis, and it also has anti-tumor/growth activities. However, the signaling pathways of tetrandrine-induced growth arrest and apoptosis in cancer cells remain unclear. We investigated the molecular mechanisms of tetrandrine-induced apoptosis and growth arrest in human lung carcinoma cells. Upon treatment with tetrandrine, a time-dependent inhibition of cell growth was observed and cells developed many of the hallmark features of apoptosis. Flow cytometry analysis confirmed that tetrandrine increased populations of both apoptotic sub-G1 and G1 phase. Tetrandrine-induced growth inhibition was associated with induction of Cdk inhibitor p21, inhibition of cyclin D1 and activation of caspase-3. Tetrandrine also affected the expression patterns of cytoskeletons including distribution of F-actin and expression level of microtubule. These results suggest that tetrandrine merits further investigation as a cell cycle blocker as well as a cancer chemopreventive agent.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Alkaloids / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Benzylisoquinolines*
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cyclin D1 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Cyclins / metabolism
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacology
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Growth Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Actins
  • Alkaloids
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Benzylisoquinolines
  • CDKN1A protein, human
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Cyclins
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Growth Inhibitors
  • Cyclin D1
  • tetrandrine
  • CASP3 protein, human
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases