Ayurvedic medicine constituent withaferin a causes G2 and M phase cell cycle arrest in human breast cancer cells

Nutr Cancer. 2008;60 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):51-60. doi: 10.1080/01635580802381477.


Withaferin A (WA) is derived from the medicinal plant Withania somnifera that has been safely used for centuries in the Indian Ayurvedic medicine for treatment of various ailments. We now demonstrate that WA treatment causes G2 and mitotic arrest in human breast cancer cells. Treatment of MDA-MB-231 (estrogen-independent) and MCF-7 (estrogen-responsive) cell lines with WA resulted in a concentration- and time-dependent increase in G2-M fraction, which correlated with a decrease in levels of cyclin-dependent kinase 1 (Cdk1), cell division cycle 25C (Cdc25C) and/or Cdc25B proteins, leading to accumulation of Tyrosine15 phosphorylated (inactive) Cdk1. Ectopic expression of Cdc25C conferred partial yet significant protection against WA-mediated G2-M phase cell cycle arrest in MDA-MB-231 cells. The WA-treated MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 cells were also arrested in mitosis as judged by fluorescence microscopy and analysis of Ser10 phosphorylated histone H3. Mitotic arrest resulting from exposure to WA was accompanied by an increase in the protein level of anaphase promoting complex/cyclosome substrate securin. In conclusion, the results of this study suggest that G2-M phase cell cycle arrest may be an important mechanism in antiproliferative effect of WA against human breast cancer cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Division / drug effects*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Ergosterol / analogs & derivatives*
  • Ergosterol / pharmacology
  • Female
  • G2 Phase / drug effects*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Ayurvedic*
  • Mitosis / drug effects
  • Phosphorylation
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Withanolides
  • cdc25 Phosphatases / analysis
  • cdc25 Phosphatases / physiology


  • Histones
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Withanolides
  • CDC25C protein, human
  • cdc25 Phosphatases
  • withaferin A
  • Ergosterol