Astragalus membranaceus lectin (AML) induces caspase-dependent apoptosis in human leukemia cells

Cell Prolif. 2012 Feb;45(1):15-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2184.2011.00800.x. Epub 2011 Dec 16.


Objectives: Recently, plant lectins have attracted great interest due to their various biological activities such as anti-cancer, anti-fungal and anti-viral activities. We have reported earlier concerning anti-proliferation of human cancer cell lines by a galactose-binding lectin (AML), from a Chinese herb, ASTRAGALUS MEMBRANACEUS: In the present study, detailed investigations into the mechanism of such anti-proliferation properties have been carried out.

Materials and methods: Mechanism of apoptosis initiation in K562 cells by AML was investigated by morphology, flow cytometry and western blot analysis.

Results: AML induced apoptosis in a caspase-dependent manner in the chronic myeloid leukemia cell line, K562. Furthermore, we observed that cytotoxicity and apoptosis of K562 cells induced by AML were completely abolished in presence of lactose or galactose.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that AML could act as a potential anti-cancer drug.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Chloromethyl Ketones / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Astragalus propinquus
  • Carbohydrates / pharmacology
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • K562 Cells
  • Leukemia, Myelogenous, Chronic, BCR-ABL Positive / drug therapy*
  • Leukemia, Myelogenous, Chronic, BCR-ABL Positive / metabolism
  • Leukemia, Myelogenous, Chronic, BCR-ABL Positive / pathology
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Lectins / pharmacology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism


  • Amino Acid Chloromethyl Ketones
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Carbohydrates
  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Plant Lectins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • benzyloxycarbonylvalyl-alanyl-aspartyl fluoromethyl ketone
  • CASP3 protein, human
  • Caspase 3