Reversal of P-glycoprotein-mediated multidrug resistance of human hepatic cancer cells by Astragaloside II

J Pharm Pharmacol. 2012 Dec;64(12):1741-50. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-7158.2012.01549.x. Epub 2012 Jun 8.


Objectives: Chemoresistance is the main obstacle encountered in cancer treatment and is frequently associated with multidrug resistance (MDR). Astragaloside is a saponin which is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine. It has been reported that Astragaloside has antitumour effects on hepatocellular carcinoma Bel-7402 cells in vitro and in vivo. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of Astragaloside II on the reversal of MDR and its molecular mechanism in vitro.

Methods: In this study, Bel-7402 and Bel-7402/FU cell lines were used as the experimental model. Drug sensitivity was determined using the 3-(4,5-Dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide assay, accumulation and efflux of Rh123 were analyzed by flow cytometer, the mRNA level of mdr1 was determined by RT-PCR and the protein levels of P-glycoprotein (P-gp) and mitogen-activated protein kinase were determined by Western blot.

Key findings: Astragaloside II (0.08 mg/ml) showed strong potency to increase 5-fluorouracil cytotoxicity toward 5-fluorouracil-resistant human hepatic cancer cells Bel-7402/FU. The mechanism of Astragaloside II on P-gp-mediated MDR demonstrated that Astragaloside II significantly increased the intracellular accumulation of rhodamine 123 via inhibition of P-gp transport function. Based on the analysis of P-gp and mdr1 gene expression using Western blot and RT-PCR, the results revealed that Astragaloside II could downregulate the expression of the P-gp and mdr1 gene. In addition, Astragaloside II suppressed phosphorylation of extracellular signal regulated kinase 1/2, p38 and c-Jun N-terminal kinase.

Conclusions: The results suggested that Astragaloside II is a potent MDR reversal agent and may be a potential adjunctive agent for hepatic cancer chemotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / genetics
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / metabolism*
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / isolation & purification
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use
  • Astragalus Plant / chemistry*
  • Biological Transport / drug effects
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Down-Regulation
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple / drug effects*
  • Fluorouracil / therapeutic use
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Rhodamine 123 / metabolism
  • Saponins / isolation & purification
  • Saponins / pharmacology
  • Saponins / therapeutic use*


  • ABCB1 protein, human
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Plant Extracts
  • Saponins
  • astragaloside II
  • Rhodamine 123
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Fluorouracil