Imperatorin as a Promising Chemotherapeutic Agent Against Human Larynx Cancer and Rhabdomyosarcoma Cells

Molecules. 2020 Apr 28;25(9):2046. doi: 10.3390/molecules25092046.


Naturally occurring coumarins are bioactive compounds widely used in Asian traditional medicine. They have been shown to inhibit proliferation, induce apoptosis, and/or enhance the cytotoxicity of currently used drugs against a variety of cancer cell types. The aim of our study was to examine the antiproliferative activity of different linear furanocoumarins on human rhabdomyosarcoma, lung, and larynx cancer cell lines, and dissolve their cellular mechanism of action. The coumarins were isolated from fruits of Angelica archangelica L. or Pastinaca sativa L., and separated using high-performance counter-current chromatography (HPCCC). The identity and purity of isolated compounds were confirmed by HPLC-DAD and NMR analyses. Cell viability and toxicity assessments were performed by means of methylthiazolyldiphenyl-tetrazolium bromide (MTT) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) assays, respectively. Induction of apoptosis and cell cycle progression were measured using flow cytometry analysis. qPCR method was applied to detect changes in gene expression. Linear furanocoumarins in a dose-dependent manner inhibited proliferation of cancer cells with diverse activity regarding compounds and cancer cell type specificity. Imperatorin (IMP) exhibited the most potent growth inhibitory effects against human rhabdomyosarcoma and larynx cancer cell lines owing to inhibition of the cell cycle progression connected with specific changes in gene expression, including CDKN1A. As there are no specific chemotherapy treatments dedicated to laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma and rhabdomyosarcoma, and IMP seems to be non-toxic for normal cells, our results could open a new direction in the search for effective anti-cancer agents.

Keywords: Angelica archangelica; Pastinaca sativa; furanocoumarins; imperatorin; larynx cancer; rhabdomyosarcoma.

MeSH terms

  • Angelica archangelica / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Survival
  • Chromatography
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21 / metabolism
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Fruit / chemistry
  • Furocoumarins / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Pastinaca / chemistry
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma / drug therapy
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma / pathology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • CDKN1A protein, human
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Furocoumarins
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase
  • imperatorin