Silymarin and silibinin cause G1 and G2-M cell cycle arrest via distinct circuitries in human prostate cancer PC3 cells: a comparison of flavanone silibinin with flavanolignan mixture silymarin

Oncogene. 2006 Feb 16;25(7):1053-69. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1209146.


Here, we assessed and compared the anticancer efficacy and associated mechanisms of silymarin and silibinin in human prostate cancer (PCA) PC3 cells; silymarin is comprised of silibinin and its other stereoisomers, including isosilybin A, isosilybin B, silydianin, silychristin and isosilychristin. Silymarin and silibinin (50-100 microg/ml) inhibited cell proliferation, induced cell death, and caused G1 and G2-M cell cycle arrest in a dose/time-dependent manner. Molecular studies showed that G1 arrest was associated with a decrease in cyclin D1, cyclin D3, cyclin E, cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK)4, CDK6 and CDK2 protein levels, and CDK2 and CDK4 kinase activity, together with an increase in CDK inhibitors (CDKIs) Kip1/p27 and Cip1/p21. Further, both agents caused cytoplasmic sequestration of cyclin D1 and CDK2, contributing to G1 arrest. The G2-M arrest by silibinin and silymarin was associated with decreased levels of cyclin B1, cyclin A, pCdc2 (Tyr15), Cdc2, and an inhibition of Cdc2 kinase activity. Both agents also decreased the levels of Cdc25B and cell division cycle 25C (Cdc25C) phosphatases with an increased phosphorylation of Cdc25C at Ser216 and its translocation from nucleus to the cytoplasm, which was accompanied by an increased binding with 14-3-3beta. Both agents also increased checkpoint kinase (Chk)2 phosphorylation at Thr68 and Ser19 sites, which is known to phosphorylate Cdc25C at Ser216 site. Chk2-specific small interfering RNA largely attenuated the silymarin and silibinin-induced G2-M arrest. An increase in the phosphorylation of histone 2AX and ataxia telangiectasia mutated was also observed. These findings indicate that silymarin and silibinin modulate G1 phase cyclins-CDKs-CDKIs for G1 arrest, and the Chk2-Cdc25C-Cdc2/cyclin B1 pathway for G2-M arrest, together with an altered subcellular localization of critical cell cycle regulators. Overall, we observed comparable effects for both silymarin and silibinin at equal concentrations by weight, suggesting that silibinin could be a major cell cycle-inhibitory component in silymarin. However, other silibinin stereoisomers present in silymarin also contribute to its efficacy, and could be of interest for future investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma / drug therapy*
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / analysis
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Nucleus / chemistry
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinases / analysis
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinases / metabolism*
  • Cytoplasm / chemistry
  • Flavones / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phosphorylation
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Silybin
  • Silymarin / therapeutic use*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Flavones
  • Silymarin
  • Silybin
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinases