Apigenin inhibits cell proliferation, migration, and invasion by targeting Akt in the A549 human lung cancer cell line

Anticancer Drugs. 2017 Apr;28(4):446-456. doi: 10.1097/CAD.0000000000000479.


Apigenin (APG), a widely distributed flavonoid in vegetables and fruits, with low toxicity, and a nonmutagenic characteristic, has been reported to have many targets. Evidence indicates that APG can inhibit the proliferation, migration, invasion, and metastasis of some tumor cells, but the mechanism, specifically in lung cancer, is unclear. The phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt signaling pathway regulates a diverse set of cellular functions relevant to the growth and progression of lung cancer, including proliferation, survival, migration, and invasion. Our results showed that APG exerted anti-proliferation, anti-migration, and anti-invasion effects in A549 human lung cancer cells by targeting the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway. 3-(4, 5-dimethylthiszol-2-yl)-2, 5-diphenytetrazolium bromide assay and colony formation assay showed that APG suppressed cell proliferation in a dose-dependent and time-dependent manner. Cell motility and invasiveness were assayed using a wound healing and Transwell assay, suggesting that APG inhibited the migration and invasion of A549 cells. Western blot analyses were carried out to examine the Akt signaling pathways. The results confirmed that APG decreased Akt expression and its activation. Then, cells were transfected with Akt-active and Akt-DN plasmids separately. The migration and invasion of A549 cells were significantly changed, constitutively activating Akt or knocking down Akt, indicating that APG can suppress the migration and invasion of lung cancer cells by modulating the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway. Furthermore, the results indicated that APG not only suppressed phosphorylation of Akt, thereby preventing its activation, but also inhibited its downstream gene expression of matrix metalloproteinases-9, glycogen synthase kinase-3β, and HEF1. Together, APG is a new inhibitor of Akt in lung cancer and a potential natural compound for cancer chemoprevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • A549 Cells
  • Apigenin / pharmacology*
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Oncogene Protein v-akt
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Apigenin
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Oncogene Protein v-akt
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt