Amplification activation loop between caspase-8 and -9 dominates artemisinin-induced apoptosis of ASTC-a-1 cells

Apoptosis. 2012 Jun;17(6):600-11. doi: 10.1007/s10495-012-0706-5.


Although caspases have been demonstrated to be involved in artemisinin (ARTE)-induced apoptosis, their exact functions are not well understood. The aim of this report is to explore the roles of caspase-8, -9 and -3 during ARTE-induced apoptosis in human lung adenocarcinoma (ASTC-a-1) cells. ARTE treatment induces a rapid generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and ROS-dependent apoptosis as well as the activation of caspase-8, -9 and -3 via time- and dose-dependent fashion. Of upmost importance, inhibition of caspase-8 or -9, but not caspase-3, almost completely blocks the ARTE-induced not only activation of the caspase-8, -9 and -3 but also apoptosis. In addition, the apoptotic process triggered by ARTE does not involve the Bid cleavage, tBid translocation, significant loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and cytochrome c release from mitochondria. Moreover, silencing Bax/Bak does not prevent the ATRE-induced cell death as well as the activation of caspase-8, -9 and -3. Collectively, our data firstly demonstrate that ARTE triggers a ROS-mediated positive feedback amplification activation loop between caspase-8 and -9 independent of mitochondria, which dominantly mediated the ARTE-induced apoptosis via a caspase-3-independent apoptotic pathway in ASTC-a-1 cells. Our findings imply a potential to develop new derivatives from artemisinin to effectively initiate the amplification activation loop of caspases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Artemisinins / pharmacology*
  • Caspase 3 / genetics
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Caspase 8 / genetics
  • Caspase 8 / metabolism*
  • Caspase 9 / genetics
  • Caspase 9 / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cells / cytology*
  • Cells / drug effects
  • Cells / enzymology*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / enzymology
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism


  • Artemisinins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • artemisinine
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspase 8
  • Caspase 9