Grape seed proanthocyanidins inhibit the invasiveness of human HNSCC cells by targeting EGFR and reversing the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition

PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e31093. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031093. Epub 2012 Jan 27.


Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is responsible for approximately 20,000 deaths per year in the United States. Most of the deaths are due to the metastases. To develop more effective strategies for the prevention of metastasis of HNSCC cells, we have determined the effect of grape seed proanthocyanidins (GSPs) on the invasive potential of HNSCC cell and the mechanisms underlying these effects using OSC19 cells as an in vitro model. Using cell invasion assays, we established that treatment of the OSC19 cells with GSPs resulted in a dose-dependent inhibition of cell invasion. EGFR is over-expressed in 90% of HNSCCs and the EGFR inhibitors, erlotinib and gefitinib, are being explored as therapies for this disease. We found that GSPs treatment reduced the levels of expression of EGFR in the OSC19 cells as well as reducing the activation of NF-κB/p65, a downstream target of EGFR, and the expression of NF-κB-responsive proteins. GSPs treatment also reduced the activity of ERK1/2, an upstream regulator of NF-κB and treatment of the cells with caffeic acid phenethyl ester, an inhibitor of NF-κB, inhibited cell invasion. Overexpression of EGFR and high NF-κB activity play a key role in the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, which is of critical importance in the processes underlying metastasis, and we found treatment with GSPs enhanced the levels of epithelial (E-cadherin, cytokeratins and desmoglein-2) and reduced the levels of mesenchymal (vimentin, fibronectin, N-cadherin and Slug) biomarkers in the OSC19 cells. These results indicate that GSPs have the ability to inhibit HNSCC cell invasion, and do so by targeting the expression of EGFR and activation of NF-κB as well as inhibiting the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Retracted Publication

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology*
  • Cell Adhesion / drug effects
  • Cell Adhesion / genetics
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Movement / genetics
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Down-Regulation / drug effects
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / drug effects*
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Genes, erbB-1 / drug effects*
  • Grape Seed Extract / administration & dosage
  • Grape Seed Extract / pharmacology*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / genetics
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Proanthocyanidins / administration & dosage
  • Proanthocyanidins / pharmacology*
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Grape Seed Extract
  • Grape Seed Proanthocyanidins
  • Proanthocyanidins