Mechanism of Hericium erinaceus (Yamabushitake) mushroom-induced apoptosis of U937 human monocytic leukemia cells

Food Funct. 2011 Jun;2(6):348-56. doi: 10.1039/c1fo10030k. Epub 2011 Jun 8.


Phytochemicals in some foods are a potential source of bioactive safe compounds for cancer chemoprevention and suppression of tumor initiation, promotion, and metastasis. In the present study, we evaluated hot water (HWE), microwaved 50% ethanol (MWE), acidic (ACE), and alkaline (AKE) extracts of the fruitbody (sporocarp) of Hericium erinaceus (Yamabushitake, Lion's Mane) mushrooms for their ability to induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in U937 human monocytic leukemia cells. Cell culture, cell viability, cytotoxicity, flow cytometry, chromosomal DNA integrity, mitochondrial membrane potential, expression of pro- and anti-apoptotic proteins, and activation and inhibition of caspase assays were carried out to help define the mechanism of observed apoptosis. The aqueous and aqueous/ethanolic extracts were active in all assays, whereas the acidic and alkaline extracts with the similar proximate compositions were both inactive. The results of the bioassays with the active extracts are consistent with an apoptosis mechanism governing suppression of the cell proliferation pathway that involves activation of mitochondria-mediated caspase-3 and caspase-9 but not caspase-8. Proximate analysis of the freeze-dried mushroom powder showed that it contains high amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, and minerals. The results indicate that H. erinaceus mushrooms may have therapeutic potential against human leukemia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agaricales / chemistry*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Biological Products / pharmacology*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Caspase 8 / metabolism
  • Caspase 9 / metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects*
  • Chemoprevention / methods
  • DNA Fragmentation / drug effects
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • U937 Cells


  • Biological Products
  • CASP3 protein, human
  • CASP8 protein, human
  • CASP9 protein, human
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspase 8
  • Caspase 9