Plants and plant extracts play a crucial role in the research into novel antineoplastic agents. Four sesquiterpene lactones, artecanin (1), 3β-chloro-4α,10α-dihydroxy-1α,2α-epoxy-5α,7αH-guaia-11(13)-en-12,6α-olide (2), iso-seco-tanapartholide 3-O-methyl ether (3) and 4β,15-dihydro-3-dehydrozaluzanin C (4), were isolated from two traditionally used Asteraceae species (Onopordum acanthium and Artemisia asiatica). When tested for antiproliferative action on HL-60 leukemia cells, these compounds exhibited reasonable IC50 values in the range 3.6-13.5 μM. Treatment with the tested compounds resulted in a cell cycle disturbance characterized by increases in the G1 and G2/M populations, while there was a decrease in the S phase. Additionally, 1-3 elicited increases in the hypodiploid (subG1) population. The compounds elicited concentration-dependent chromatin condensation and disruption of the membrane integrity, as revealed by Hoechst 33258-propidium staining. Treatment for 24 h resulted in significant increases in activity of caspases-3 and -9, indicating that the tested sesquiterpenes induced the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis. The proapoptotic properties of the sesquiterpene lactones were additionally demonstrated withannexin V staining. Compounds 1 and 2 increased the Bax/Bcl-2 expression and decreased the expressions of CDK1 and cyclin B2, as determined at the mRNA level by means of RT-PCR. These experimental results indicate that sesquiterpene lactones may be regarded as potential starting structures for the development of novel anticancer agents.
Keywords: apoptosis; cell cycle; leukemia cells; sesquiterpenes.