Honokiol induces calpain-mediated glucose-regulated protein-94 cleavage and apoptosis in human gastric cancer cells and reduces tumor growth

PLoS One. 2007 Oct 31;2(10):e1096. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001096.


Background: Honokiol, a small molecular weight natural product, has been shown to possess potent anti-neoplastic and anti-angiogenic properties. Its molecular mechanisms and the ability of anti-gastric cancer remain unknown. It has been shown that the anti-apoptotic function of the glucose-regulated proteins (GRPs) predicts that their induction in neoplastic cells can lead to cancer progression and drug resistance. We explored the effects of honokiol on the regulation of GRPs and apoptosis in human gastric cancer cells and tumor growth.

Methodology and principal findings: Treatment of various human gastric cancer cells with honokiol led to the induction of GRP94 cleavage, but did not affect GRP78. Silencing of GRP94 by small interfering RNA (siRNA) could induce cell apoptosis. Treatment of cells with honokiol or chemotherapeutics agent etoposide enhanced the increase in apoptosis and GRP94 degradation. The calpain activity and calpain-II (m-calpain) protein (but not calpain-I (micro-calpain)) level could also be increased by honokiol. Honokiol-induced GRP94 down-regulation and apoptosis in gastric cancer cells could be reversed by siRNA targeting calpain-II and calpain inhibitors. Furthermore, the results of immunofluorescence staining and immunoprecipitation revealed a specific interaction of GRP94 with calpain-II in cells following honokiol treatment. We next observed that tumor GRP94 over-expression and tumor growth in BALB/c nude mice, which were inoculated with human gastric cancer cells MKN45, are markedly decreased by honokiol treatment.

Conclusions and significance: These results provide the first evidence that honokiol-induced calpain-II-mediated GRP94 cleavage causes human gastric cancer cell apoptosis. We further suggest that honokiol may be a possible therapeutic agent to improve clinical outcome of gastric cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis*
  • Biphenyl Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Calpain / chemistry
  • Calpain / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Chaperone BiP
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Lignans / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Models, Biological
  • Stomach Neoplasms / metabolism*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Biphenyl Compounds
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Chaperone BiP
  • HSPA5 protein, human
  • Hspa5 protein, mouse
  • Lignans
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • endoplasmin
  • honokiol
  • Calpain
  • Glucose