Mechanism of apoptosis induced by apigenin in HepG2 human hepatoma cells: involvement of reactive oxygen species generated by NADPH oxidase

Arch Pharm Res. 2007 Oct;30(10):1328-35. doi: 10.1007/BF02980274.


Although plant-derived flavonoids have been reported to have anti-cancer activities, the exact mechanism of these actions is not completely understood. In this study we investigated the role for reactive oxygen species (ROS) as a mediator of the apoptosis induced by apigenin, a widespread flavonoid in plant, in HepG2 human hepatoma cells. Apigenin reduced cell viability, and induced apoptotic cell death in a dose-dependent manner. In addition, it evoked a dose-related elevation of intracellular ROS level. Treatment with various inhibitors of the NADPH oxidase (diphenylene iodonium, apocynin, neopterine) significantly blunted both the generation of ROS and induction of apoptosis induced by apigenin. These results suggest that ROS generated through the activation of the NADPH oxidase may play an essential role in the apoptosis induced by apigenin in HepG2 cells. These results further suggest that apigenin may be valuable for the therapeutic management of human hepatomas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetophenones / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Apigenin / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / enzymology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology*
  • NADPH Oxidases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • NADPH Oxidases / metabolism*
  • Neopterin / pharmacology
  • Onium Compounds / pharmacology
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Time Factors


  • Acetophenones
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Onium Compounds
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Neopterin
  • diphenyleneiodonium
  • Apigenin
  • acetovanillone
  • NADPH Oxidases