A water-soluble polysaccharide (WATP), with a molecular weight of 6.3 × 10⁴ Da, was isolated from Aster tataricus. According to gas chromatography (GC) analysis, WATP was composed of galactose, glucose, fucose, rhamnose, arabinose and mannose with molar ratios of 2.1:1.3:0.9:0.5:0.3:0.6. The effects of WATP on cell proliferation and apoptosis in human gastric cancer SGC-7901 cells were examined. MTT assay showed that WATP had a perfectly tumor growth inhibitory activity on SGC-7901 cells, but no cytotoxicity on SGC-7901 and primary human polymorphonuclear (PMN) cells analyzed using LDH assay. Flow cytometry analysis indicated that WATP could significantly induce apoptosis of SGC-7901 cells. Furthermore using Rh123 and Fluo-3 as fluorescent probes, respectively, it was found that mitochondrial transmembrane potential (ΔΨ(m)) of treatment groups was significantly lower than that in un-treatment group and the concentration of calcium in cells exposed to WATP for 24 h was increased in a dose dependent manner compared with unexposed group. These results suggest that WATP induces apoptosis of SGC-7901 cells through calcium- and ΔΨ(m)-dependent pathways, indicating that it is potentially useful as a natural anti-cancer agent.
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