Chrysin suppresses proliferation, migration, and invasion in glioblastoma cell lines via mediating the ERK/Nrf2 signaling pathway

Drug Des Devel Ther. 2018 Apr 3;12:721-733. doi: 10.2147/DDDT.S160020. eCollection 2018.


Background: Chrysin, an active natural bioflavonoid, has been proven to protect against carcinogenesis. However, the role of chrysin in glioblastoma and the potential molecular mechanisms remain to be elucidated. In our previous study, we found that nuclear factor erythroid 2 (NF-E2)-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is highly expressed in a variety of glioblastoma cell lines associated with the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway. The aim of this study was to evaluate the antitumor effects of chrysin in glioblastoma cells and how chrysin is related to the MAPK/Nrf2 signaling pathway.

Methods: A Cell Counting Kit-8 assay and a plate colony formation assay were performed to evaluate cell proliferation. Cell migration ability was tested by a wound-healing assay. Transwell migration and Matrigel invasion assay were used to test the migration and invasion potential of cells. Nrf2 was knocked down by shRNA transfection. Protein expression was determined by Western blotting and immunofluorescence staining. The in vivo anticancer effect was measured using tumor xenografts in nude mice.

Results: Chrysin inhibited the proliferation, migration, and invasion capacity of glioblastoma cells in dose- and time-dependent manners. Mechanistically, chrysin deactivated the Nrf2 signaling pathway by decreasing the translocation of Nrf2 into the nucleus and suppressing the expression of hemeoxygenase-1 (HO-1) and NAD(P)H quinine oxidoreductase-1, meanwhile, Nrf2 shRNA attenuated the anticancer activity of chrysin. Furthermore, chrysin downregulated the protein expression of p-extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 and 2 (ERK1/2), but did not significantly affect p-JNK and p-P38 expression levels. However, the downregulated level of Nrf2 and the antitumor effect of chrysin in glioblastoma cell lines were partially abrogated by the ERK1/2 signaling inhibitor (U0126). Finally, chrysin inhibited tumor growth in U87 xenografts.

Conclusion: Our results show that chrysin exerts anticancer activity in glioblastoma cell lines possibly via the ERK/Nrf2 signaling pathway and indicate the potential application of chrysin as a natural sensitizer in chemotherapy.

Keywords: ERK; Nrf2; chrysin; extracellular signal-regulated kinase; glioblastoma; nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / metabolism
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology*
  • Glioblastoma / drug therapy*
  • Glioblastoma / metabolism
  • Glioblastoma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Nude
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / metabolism
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / metabolism
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Flavonoids
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2
  • chrysin
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases