This study investigated the potential of Persian shallot extract as an anticancer agent in HepG2 tumor cell line, an in vitro human hepatoma cancer model system. The inhibitory effect of Persian shallot on the growth of HepG2 cells was measured by MTT assay. To explore the underlying mechanism of cell growth inhibition of Persian shallot, the activity of Persian shallot in inducing apoptosis was investigated through the detection of annexin V signal by flow cytometry and expression of some apoptosis related genes such p21, p53, puma, caspase-8 family-Bcl-2 proteins like bid, bim, bcl-2 and bax were measured by real-time PCR in HepG2 cells. Persian shallot extract inhibited the growth of HepG2 cells in a dose-dependent manner. The IC50 value (inhibiting cell growth by 50%) was 149 μg/ml. The results of real-time PCR revealed a significant up-regulation of bid, bim, caspase-8, puma, p53, p21 and bax genes and a significant downregulation of bcl-2 gene in HepG2 cells treated with Persian shallot extract significantly. Therefore, this is the first report on an increased expression of bid, bim, caspase-8, puma, p53, p21 and bax genes and down regulation of bcl-2 gene indicating that the Persian shallot extract possibly induced the process of cell death through the intrinsic and extrinsic apoptosis pathways and triggers the programmed cell death in HepG2 tumor cell lines by modulating the expression of pro-/anti-apoptotic genes. Furthermore, we showed that Persian shallot extract increased annexin V signal and expression, resulting in apoptotic cell death of HepG2 cells after 24 h treatment. Therefore, according to the results of this study, the Persian shallot extract could be considered as a potential candidate for production of drug for the prevention or treatment of human hepatoma.
Keywords: Allium hirtifolium Boiss; Apoptosis; Gene expression; HepG2 cell line; Persian shallot.