In this work, the effects of a pair of positional isomer of ganoderic acids (GAs), namely ganoderic acid Mf (GA-Mf) and ganoderic acid S (GA-S) purified from the fermented mycelia of Ganoderma lucidum, on induction of cell apoptosis and the apoptotic pathway in HeLa cells were investigated. The results demonstrate that both isomers decreased cell population growth on various human carcinoma cell lines by MTT assay, while GA-Mf had better selectivity between normal and cancer cells. The flow cytometry analysis indicated that treatment of HeLa cells with GA-S caused cell cycle arrest in the S phase, while GA-Mf caused cell cycle arrest in the G1 phase. Compared with GA-S, GA-Mf had more potent increase in the number of early and late apoptotic cells. Treatment of HeLa cells with each isomer decreased the mitochondria membrane potential and caused the release of cytochrome c from mitochondria into the cytosol. In addition, stimulation of caspase-3 and caspase-9 activity was observed. The Bax/Bcl-2 ratio was also increased in GA-treated HeLa cells. The results demonstrated that both isomers GA-Mf and GA-S induced apoptosis of human HeLa cells through a mitochondria mediated pathway, but they had the different cell cycle arrest specificity. The findings will be helpful to the development of useful cancer chemopreventive compounds from G. lucidum.
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