Background: Substances inducing apoptosis have shown efficacy in the treatment of cancers. Poncirus trifoliata (L.) Raf. (Rutaceae) fruits (PTF) has been used for the treatment of various cancers among Korean Oriental Medical doctors.
Methods: PTF-induced cytotoxicity of human leukemia HL-60 cells was monitored by the MTT assay. The apoptosis was determined by (a) apoptotic morphology in microscopy; (b) DNA fragmentation in electrophoresis and FACS analysis; and (c) activation of caspase-3 and poly-ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) cleavage assay.
Results: The cytotoxic activity of PTF in HL-60 cells was increased in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. PTF caused the cell shrinkage, cell membrane blebbing, apoptotic body and DNA fragmentation. PTF-induced apoptosis is accompanied by the activation of caspase-3 and the specific proteolytic cleavage of PARP. However, PTF did not show cytotoxicity in normal peripheral blood mononuclear cells.
Conclusions: Our novel finding provides evidence that PTF could be a candidate as an anti-leukemic agent through apoptosis of cancer cells.