Crocin inhibits cell proliferation and enhances cisplatin and pemetrexed chemosensitivity in lung cancer cells

Transl Lung Cancer Res. 2015 Dec;4(6):775-83. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2218-6751.2015.11.03.


Background: Crocin is the major constituent of saffron, a naturally derived Chinese medicine obtained from the dried stigma of the Crocus sativus flower. It has a variety of pharmacological effects, including anti-oxidative, immunity enhancement, and anti-tumorigenic properties; however, the molecular mechanisms underlying these effects remain unknown.

Methods: To investigate the effects of crocin on proliferation and apoptosis of lung adenocarcinoma cells, lung adenocarcinoma cell lines, A549 and SPC-A1, were treated with crocin at different dosages. Cell morphological changes were observed by light microscopy. The 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide assay was performed to detect the inhibitory effect of crocin on cell proliferation and sensitivity to chemotherapeutic drugs. Flow cytometry was used to characterize cell apoptosis and cell cycle profiles. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction was used to detect mRNA levels of apoptosis-related genes.

Results: Crocin inhibited cell proliferation and induced apoptosis in A549 and SPC-A1 cells in a concentration-dependent manner, accompanied with an increase of G0/G1 arrest. Crocin significantly increased the mRNA levels of both p53 and B-cell lymphoma 2-associated X protein (Bax), while decreasing B-cell lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2) mRNA expressions. In addition, crocin combined with either cisplatin or pemetrexed showed additive effects on cell proliferation in two lung cancer cell lines.

Conclusions: Crocin significantly suppressed the proliferation of human lung adenocarcinoma cells and enhanced the chemo sensitivity of these cells to both cisplatin and pemetrexed. The actions of molecular mechanism could be through the induction of cell cycle arrest and apoptosis by p53 and Bax up-regulation but Bcl-2 down-regulation.

Keywords: Crocin; cisplatin; lung adenocarcinoma; pemetrexed.