RNA-seq transcriptome analysis of breast cancer cell lines under shikonin treatment

Sci Rep. 2018 Feb 8;8(1):2672. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-21065-x.


Shikonin is a naphthoquinone isolated from the dried root of Lithospermum erythrorhizon, an herb used in Chinese medicine. Although several studies have indicated that shikonin exhibits antitumor activity in breast cancer, the mechanism of action remains unclear. In the present study, we performed transcriptome analysis using RNA-seq and explored the mechanism of action of shikonin in regulating the growth of different types of breast cancer cells. The IC50 of shikonin on MCF-7, SKBR-3 and MDA-MB-231 cells were 10.3 μΜ, 15.0 μΜ, 15.0 μΜ respectively. Our results also demonstrated that shikonin arrests the progression of cell cycle and induces apoptosis in MDA-MB-231 cells. Using RNA-seq transcriptome analysis, we found 38 common genes that significantly express in different types of breast cancer cells under shikonin treatment. In particular, our results indicated that shikonin induces the expression of dual specificity phosphatase (DUSP)-1 and DUSP2 in both RNA and protein levels. In addition, shikonin also inhibits the phosphorylation of JNK and p38, the downstream signaling molecules of DUSP1 and DUSP2. Therefore, our results suggest that shikonin induces the expression of DUSP1 and DUSP2 which consequently switches off JNK and p38 MAPK pathways and causes cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in breast cancer cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Cell Cycle Checkpoints / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Dual Specificity Phosphatase 1 / metabolism
  • Dual Specificity Phosphatase 2 / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Lithospermum / metabolism
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / drug effects
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Naphthoquinones / metabolism
  • Naphthoquinones / pharmacology*
  • RNA / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Transcriptome / drug effects*
  • Transcriptome / genetics


  • Naphthoquinones
  • shikonin
  • RNA
  • DUSP1 protein, human
  • DUSP2 protein, human
  • Dual Specificity Phosphatase 1
  • Dual Specificity Phosphatase 2