Inhibition of autophagy induced by quercetin at a late stage enhances cytotoxic effects on glioma cells

Tumour Biol. 2016 Mar;37(3):3549-60. doi: 10.1007/s13277-015-4125-4. Epub 2015 Oct 10.


Glioma is the most common primary brain tumor in the central nervous system (CNS) with high morbidity and mortality in adults. Although standardized comprehensive therapy has been adapted, the prognosis of glioma patients is still frustrating and thus novel therapeutic strategies are urgently in need. Quercetin (Quer), an important flavonoid compound found in many herbs, is shown to be effective in some tumor models including glioma. Recently, it is reported that adequate regulation of autophagy can strengthen cytotoxic effect of anticancer drugs. However, it is not yet fully clear how we should modulate autophagy to achieve a satisfactory therapeutic effect. 3-Methyladenine (3-MA) and Beclin1 short hairpin RNA (shRNA) were used to inhibit the early stage of autophage while chloroquine (CQ) to inhibit the late stage. MTT assay was implemented to determine cell viability. Transmission electron microscopy, western blot, and immunohistochemistry were adopted to evaluate autophagy. Western blot, flow cytometry, and immunohistochemistry were used to detect apoptosis. C6 glioma xenograft models were established to assess the therapeutic effect (the body weight change, the median survival time, and tumor volume) in vivo. Quercetin can inhibit cell viability and induce autophagy of U87 and U251 glioma cells in a dose-dependent manner. Inhibition of early-stage autophagy by 3-MA or shRNA against Beclin1 attenuated the quercetin-induced cytotoxicity. In contrast, suppression of autophagy at a late stage by CQ enhanced the anti-glioma efficiency of quercetin. Therapeutic effect of quercetin for malignant glioma can be strengthened by inhibition of autophagy at a late stage, not initial stage, which may provide a novel opportunity for glioma therapy.

Keywords: Apoptosis; Autophagy; Glioma; Quercetin.

MeSH terms

  • Adenine / analogs & derivatives
  • Adenine / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Autophagy / drug effects*
  • Brain Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Brain Neoplasms / mortality
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Chloroquine / pharmacology
  • Glioma / drug therapy*
  • Glioma / mortality
  • Glioma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Quercetin / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • 3-methyladenine
  • Chloroquine
  • Quercetin
  • Adenine