The chemopreventive bioflavonoid apigenin modulates signal transduction pathways in keratinocyte and colon carcinoma cell lines

J Nutr. 2003 Nov;133(11 Suppl 1):3800S-3804S. doi: 10.1093/jn/133.11.3800S.


Apigenin is a nonmutagenic chemopreventive agent found in fruits and green vegetables. In this study, we used two different epithelial cell lines (308 mouse keratinocytes and HCT116 colon carcinoma cells) to determine the effect of apigenin on the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade. Apigenin induced a dose-dependent phosphorylation of both extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK) and p38 kinase but had little effect on the phosphorylation of c-jun amino terminal kinase (JNK). We used immunoprecipitation-coupled kinase assays to show that apigenin increased the kinase activity of ERK and p38 but not JNK. Consistent with these results, we found that apigenin induced a 7.4-fold induction in the phosphorylation of Elk, the downstream phosphorylation target of ERK kinase. Similarly, apigenin induced a 3.2-fold induction in the phosphorylation of activating transcription factor-2, the downstream phosphorylation target of p38 kinase. Little change was observed in the phosphorylation of c-jun, the phosphorylation target of JNK. These data suggest that part of the chemopreventive activity of apigenin may be mediated by its ability to modulate the MAPK cascade.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Apigenin
  • Cell Line
  • Colonic Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Flavonoids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Flavonoids
  • Apigenin