Induction of apoptosis by vitamin D2, ergocalciferol, via reactive oxygen species generation, glutathione depletion, and caspase activation in human leukemia Cells

J Agric Food Chem. 2008 May 14;56(9):2996-3005. doi: 10.1021/jf0730744. Epub 2008 Apr 3.


This study demonstrated that ergocalciferol was able to inhibit leukemia cell growth in a concentration-dependent manner. Exploration of the acting mechanisms involved this event revealed that ergocalciferol induced DNA fragmentation and increased sub-G1 DNA contents in HL-60 cells, both of which are hallmarks of apoptosis. Analysis of the integrity of mitochondria demonstrated that ergocalciferol caused loss of mitochondrial membrane potential with release cytochrome c to cytosol, generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and depletion of glutathione (GSH), suggesting that ergocalciferol may induce apoptosis in HL-60 cells through a ROS-dependent pathway. Further results show that caspases-2, -3, -6, and -9 were all activated by ergocalciferol, together with cleavage of the downstream caspase-3 targets, DNA fragmentation factor (DFF-45), and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase. In addition, ergocalciferol led to the increase in pro-apoptotic factor Bax accompanied with the decrease in anti-apoptotic member Mcl-1, and the reduced Mcl-1 to Bax ratio may be a critical event concerning mitochondrial decay by ergocalciferol. Furthermore, ergocalciferol also led to induction of Fas death receptor closely linked to caspase-2 activation, suggesting the involvement of a Fas-mediated pathway in ergocalciferol-induced apoptosis. Totally, these findings suggest that ergocalciferol causes HL-60 apoptosis via a modulation of mitochondria involving ROS production, GSH depletion, caspase activation, and Fas induction. On the basis of anticancer activity of ergocalciferol, it may be feasible to develop chemopreventive agents from edible mushrooms or hop.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Caspases / metabolism*
  • Cytochromes c / metabolism
  • DNA Fragmentation / drug effects
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Ergocalciferols / pharmacology*
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Genes, bcl-2 / genetics
  • Glutathione / metabolism*
  • HL-60 Cells
  • Humans
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*


  • Ergocalciferols
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Cytochromes c
  • Caspases
  • Glutathione