Autophagy interplay with apoptosis and cell cycle regulation in the growth inhibiting effect of resveratrol in glioma cells

PLoS One. 2011;6(6):e20849. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020849. Epub 2011 Jun 13.


Prognosis of patients with glioblastoma (GBM) remains very poor, thus making the development of new drugs urgent. Resveratrol (Rsv) is a natural compound that has several beneficial effects such as neuroprotection and cytotoxicity for several GBM cell lines. Here we evaluated the mechanism of action of Rsv on human GBM cell lines, focusing on the role of autophagy and its crosstalk with apoptosis and cell cycle control. We further evaluated the role of autophagy and the effect of Rsv on GBM Cancer Stem Cells (gCSCs), involved in GBM resistance and recurrence. Glioma cells treated with Rsv was tested for autophagy, apoptosis, necrosis, cell cycle and phosphorylation or expression levels of key players of these processes. Rsv induced the formation of autophagosomes in three human GBM cell lines, accompanied by an upregulation of autophagy proteins Atg5, beclin-1 and LC3-II. Inhibition of Rsv-induced autophagy triggered apoptosis, with an increase in Bax and cleavage of caspase-3. While inhibition of apoptosis or autophagy alone did not revert Rsv-induced toxicity, inhibition of both processes blocked this toxicity. Rsv also induced a S-G2/M phase arrest, accompanied by an increase on levels of pCdc2(Y15), cyclin A, E and B, and pRb (S807/811) and a decrease of cyclin D1. Interestingly, this arrest was dependent on the induction of autophagy, since inhibition of Rsv-induced autophagy abolishes cell cycle arrest and returns the phosphorylation of Cdc2(Y15) and Rb(S807/811), and levels of cyclin A, and B to control levels. Finally, inhibition of autophagy or treatment with Rsv decreased the sphere formation and the percentage of CD133 and OCT4-positive cells, markers of gCSCs. In conclusion, the crosstalk among autophagy, cell cycle and apoptosis, together with the biology of gCSCs, has to be considered in tailoring pharmacological interventions aimed to reduce glioma growth using compounds with multiple targets such as Rsv.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Autophagy / drug effects*
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Glioblastoma / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology
  • Phagosomes / drug effects
  • Phagosomes / metabolism
  • Resveratrol
  • Stilbenes / pharmacology*


  • Stilbenes
  • Resveratrol