Curcuma phaeocaulis Valeton is a commonly prescribed Chinese medical herb for tumor therapy. In this study, an extract of Curcuma phaeocaulis Valeton referred as Cpv was prepared and its anti-tumor effect was evaluated with MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells. Curcuma phaeocaulis Valeton power was extracted with ethanol and the main components of the extract (Cpv) were analyzed with HPLC. The effect of Cpv on MCF-7 cells proliferation, intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation, mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm), apoptosis, apoptotic related proteins, MDA-MB-231 cell migration, and integrins expression were determined. Furthermore, the effect of Cpv on some key signal transduction molecules was also investigated. Furanodienone, germacrone and furanodiene were identified as the main components of Cpv. Cpv treatment significantly inhibited cell proliferation, increased LDH release, induced intracellular ROS formation, and decreased ΔΨm in a dose-dependent manner in MCF-7 cells. Cpv induced apoptosis without affecting cell migration. Cpv increased protein expression of Bax, PARP, cleaved PARP, caspase-3, 7, JNK1, p-p42/44MAPK, NF-κB, IKKα, IKKβ, decreased protein expression of Bcl-2, Bcl-xL, Bim, Bik, Bad, integrin β5, p42/44MAPK without affecting integrin α5, β1, and p38MAPK protein expression. We concluded that Cpv inhibited MCF-7 cells proliferation by inducing apoptosis mediated by increasing ROS formation, decreasing ΔΨm, regulating Bcl-2 family proteins expression, and activating caspases. Cpv treatment also modulated several signaling transduction pathways. These results might provide some molecular basis for the anti-tumor activity of Curcuma phaeocaulis Valeton.
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