Andrographolide induces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in human rheumatoid arthritis fibroblast-like synoviocytes

Cell Biol Toxicol. 2012 Feb;28(1):47-56. doi: 10.1007/s10565-011-9204-8. Epub 2011 Oct 20.


The pseudo-tumoral expansion of fibroblast-like synoviocytes is a hallmark of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and targeting rheumatoid arthritis fibroblast-like synoviocytes (RAFLSs) may have therapeutic potentials in this disease. Andrographolide, a diterpenoid compound isolated from the herb Andrographis paniculata, has been reported to have potent anti-inflammatory activity. In the present study, we aimed to investigate the effects of andrographolide on human RAFLSs and the underlying molecular mechanism(s). RAFLSs were isolated from patients with RA and treated with or without various concentrations (i.e., 10, 20, and 30 μM) of andrographolide for 48 h. 3-[4,5-Dimethyl-2-yl]-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide assay revealed that andrographolide treatment decreased the proliferation of RAFLSs in a dose-dependent manner. Cell cycle analysis using propidium iodide (PI) staining showed a G0/G1 cell cycle arrest in andrographolide-treated RAFLSs. Immunoblotting analysis of key cell cycle regulators demonstrated that andrographolide treatment caused a dose-dependent increase in the expression of cell-cycle inhibitors p21 and p27 and a concomitant reduction of cyclin-dependent kinase 4. Exposure to andrographolide-induced apoptosis of RAFLSs measured by annexin V/PI double staining, which was coupled with promotion of cytochrome C release from mitochondria and activation of caspase-3. Moreover, andrographolide-treated RAFLSs displayed a significant decrease in the Bcl-2/Bax ratio compared to untreated cells. In conclusion, our data demonstrate that andrographolide exerts anti-growth and pro-apoptotic effects on RAFLSs, thus may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of RA.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / metabolism
  • Caspase 3 / drug effects
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle Checkpoints*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 4 / drug effects
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 4 / metabolism
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21 / drug effects
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21 / metabolism
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p27 / drug effects
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p27 / metabolism
  • Cytochromes c / drug effects
  • Cytochromes c / metabolism
  • Diterpenes / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / drug effects
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • Synovial Fluid / cytology*
  • Synovial Fluid / drug effects
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / drug effects
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / metabolism


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Diterpenes
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p27
  • andrographolide
  • Cytochromes c
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 4
  • Caspase 3