Astragalus polysaccharide induces the apoptosis of human hepatocellular carcinoma cells by decreasing the expression of Notch1

Int J Mol Med. 2016 Aug;38(2):551-7. doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2016.2632. Epub 2016 Jun 9.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third most frequent cause of cancer death worldwide. Astragalus polysaccharide (APS), the primary active component extracted from a traditional Chinese medicinal herb Astragalus membranaceus, has been proved to exert a marked inhibitory effect on a number of types of human solid tumors. In the present study, we aimed to examine the effects of APS on the survival of the HCC cell line H22 and to elucidate the underlying regulatory mechanisms responsible for these effects. Our results revealed that the mRNA and protein expression of Notch1 was significantly upregulated in the HCC tissues compared with that in the normal tissues. APS decreased cell viability and induced the apoptosis of HCC cells in a concentration-dependent manner, which were evaluated using a cell counting kit-8 (CCK-8) assay and flow cytometric analysis, respectively. Furthermore, APS regulated the expression of apoptosis-related genes (Bcl-2 and BAX) and proteases (caspase-3 and -8). Mechanically, Notch1 expression was found to be suppressed in HCC cells, and further analysis indicated that Notch1 knockdown by siRNA significantly reduced cell viability, suppressed the metastatic capacity and enhanced the apoptosis of HCC cells. Taken together, these findings suggest that Notch1 may be a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of HCC.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Astragalus Plant / chemistry*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / genetics
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Polysaccharides / pharmacology*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptor, Notch1 / metabolism*
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects


  • Polysaccharides
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptor, Notch1