Reactive oxygen species mediated ginsenoside Rg3- and Rh2-induced apoptosis in hepatoma cells through mitochondrial signaling pathways

Food Chem Toxicol. 2012 Aug;50(8):2736-41. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2012.05.027. Epub 2012 May 22.


Panax ginseng (P. ginseng) has anti-cancer effects in several cancer models. Ginsenosides are the main bioactive components in P. ginseng. Korean red ginseng (KRG) extract can potently kill various cancer cells and ginsenosides Rg3 (GRg3) and Rh2 (GRh2) are the primary ginsenosides in KRG. This study was carried out to examine whether KRG and its primary ginsenosides (GRg3 and GRh2) affect apoptosis of human hepatocellular carcinoma cells (Hep3B). KRG, GRg3 and GRh2 have obvious cytotoxic and apoptotic effects in Hep3B cells as evidenced by a decrease in cell viability and mitochondria membrane potential, but an increase in LDH release. In the mitochondria-mediated apoptosis pathway, KRG, GRg3 and GRh2 have the ability to stimulate the release of mitochondrial cytochrome c, activation of caspase-3 and Bax protein, inhibition of Bcl-2 protein and production of intracellular reactive oxygen species in Hep3B cells. These results suggest that KRG, GRg3 and GRh2 may induce apoptosis by direct activation of the mitochondrial pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Ginsenosides / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Mitochondria, Liver / drug effects*
  • Mitochondria, Liver / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*


  • Ginsenosides
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • ginsenoside Rg3
  • ginsenoside Rh2