Alantolactone is the active ingredient in frankincense, and is extracted from the dry root of elecampane. It has a wide variety of uses, including as an insect repellent, antibacterial, antidiuretic, analgesic and anticancer agent. In addition, alantolactone induces apoptosis of human cervical cancer cells, however, its mechanism of action remains to be elucidated. Therefore, the present study investigated whether alantolactone was able to induce apoptosis of human cervical cancer cells, and its potential mechanisms of action were analyzed. Treatment of HeLa cells with alantolactone (0, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 µM) for 12 h significantly inhibited growth in a dose-dependent manner. Cells treated with 30 µM of alantolactone for 0, 3, 6 and 12 h demonstrated marked induction of apoptosis in a time-dependent manner. Treatment of HeLa cells with 30 µM of alantolactone for 0, 3, 6 and 12 h significantly induced the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and inhibited glutathione (GSH) production in HeLa cells in a dose-dependent manner. Alantolactone additionally markedly inhibited the Bcl-2/Bax signaling pathway in HeLa cells. Therefore, administration of alantolactone induced apoptosis of human cervical cancer cells via ROS generation, GSH depletion and inhibition of the Bcl-2/Bax signaling pathway.
Keywords: B-cell lymphoma 2/Bcl-2-associated X protein; alantolactone; cervical cancer; glutathione; reactive oxygen species.