Antiproliferative and Cytotoxic Activity of Xanthohumol and Its Non-Estrogenic Derivatives in Colon and Hepatocellular Carcinoma Cell Lines

Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Mar 9;20(5):1203. doi: 10.3390/ijms20051203.


Xanthohumol (XN), a prenylated flavonoid found in hops, inhibits growth in a variety of cancer cell lines; however, its use raises concerns as gut microbiota and the host's hepatic cytochrome P450 enzymes metabolize it into the most potent phytoestrogen known, 8-prenylnaringenin (8-PN). The XN derivatives dihydroxanthohumol (DXN) and tetrahydroxanthohumol (TXN) are not metabolized into 8-PN and they show higher tissue concentrations in vivo compared with XN when orally administered to mice at the same dose. Here we show that DXN and TXN possess improved anti-proliferative activity compared with XN in two colon (HCT116, HT29) and two hepatocellular (HepG2, Huh7) carcinoma cell lines, as indicated by their respective IC50 values. Furthermore, XN, DXN, and TXN induce extensive apoptosis in all these carcinoma cell lines. Finally, TXN induces G₀/G₁ cell cycle arrest in the colon carcinoma cell line HT29. Our findings suggest that DXN and TXN could show promise as therapeutic agents against colorectal and liver cancer in preclinical studies without the drawback of metabolism into a phytoestrogen.

Keywords: apoptosis; cell cycle; chemoprevention; colon cancer; dietary agent; dihydroxanthohumol; flavonoid; phytochemical; polyphenol; tetrahydroxanthohumol; xanthohumol.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Flavonoids / chemistry
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology*
  • HCT116 Cells
  • HT29 Cells
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Propiophenones / chemistry
  • Propiophenones / pharmacology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Flavonoids
  • Propiophenones
  • xanthohumol