Thymoquinone-induced antitumor and apoptosis in human lung adenocarcinoma cells

J Cell Physiol. 2019 Jul;234(7):10421-10431. doi: 10.1002/jcp.27710. Epub 2018 Nov 1.


Background: Lung cancer has been associated with the highest cancer-associated mortality rate in the world. Chemotherapeutic management of cancer necessitates introducing new promising agents. Plants represent a rich source of new antineoplastic and chemotherapeutic agents. Thymoquinone (TQ), the main constituent of Nigella sativa (black seed or black cumin), has shown potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities so far. The purpose of the current study was to evaluate the antineoplastic potential of TQ and their underlying mechanisms in A549 cells (human lung cancer cell line).

Method: The A549 cells were treated with the different concentrations of TQ for three following days. Cell viability was assessed by 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide assay. Necrosis and apoptosis were assessed by fluorescence-activated cell sorter analysis through propidium iodide and annexin V staining and also by assessing caspase-3 and -9 activation. DNA fragmentation was monitored by gel electrophoresis.

Results: TQ decreased the viability and increased apoptotic cell death in A549 human lung tumor cells. TQ treatment significantly elevated the Bax/ Bcl-2 ratio in the lung cancer cells. TQ also upregulated p53 expression, another apoptotic modulator in A549 cancer cells. TQ also activated caspase-dependent apoptosis by the activation of caspases-3 and -9.

Conclusion: Our results proposed that TQ may be a potential new therapeutic agent for the management of lung cancer. TQ promoted apoptosis in A546 lung cancer cells by the activation of p53 and caspase cascade dependent pathways.

Keywords: 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT); A549; Bax; Bcl-2; antiproliferative; caspases; p53; thymoquinone (TQ).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • A549 Cells
  • Adenocarcinoma of Lung / drug therapy*
  • Adenocarcinoma of Lung / metabolism
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Benzoquinones / pharmacology*
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Benzoquinones
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • Caspases
  • thymoquinone