Honokiol produces anti-neoplastic effects on melanoma cells in vitro

J Surg Oncol. 2011 Sep 1;104(3):260-4. doi: 10.1002/jso.21936. Epub 2011 Apr 6.


Background: Melanoma continues to be a therapeutic challenge for the medical community owing to the scarcity of effective agents available to treat the disease. Honokiol, a traditional Chinese herb, has been proven to have anti-cancer effects in various cell types, therefore we hypothesized it may have similar cytotoxic capabilities against melanoma cells in vitro.

Methods: Two cell lines, SK-MEL2 and MeWo, were grown in culture and exposed to increasing doses of Honokiol. Cell proliferation, cytochrome c release into the cytosol, intra-cellular caspase activity, and mitochondrial depolarization were then evaluated after treatment with honokiol.

Results: Melanoma cells in culture underwent cell death, had increased cytosolic cytochrome c, showed greater caspase activity, and demonstrated increased mitochondrial depolarization after treatment when compared to controls.

Conclusions: It appears that honokiol is an effective inhibitor of cultured human melanoma cells.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Biphenyl Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Cytochromes c / metabolism
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Lignans / pharmacology*
  • Melanoma / drug therapy*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Biphenyl Compounds
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Lignans
  • honokiol
  • Cytochromes c
  • Caspases