Stigmasterol Causes Ovarian Cancer Cell Apoptosis by Inducing Endoplasmic Reticulum and Mitochondrial Dysfunction

Pharmaceutics. 2020 May 28;12(6):488. doi: 10.3390/pharmaceutics12060488.


Background: Phytosterols have physiological effects and are used as medicines or food supplements. Stigmasterol has shown anticancer effects against various cancers such as hepatoma, cholangiocarcinoma, gall bladder carcinoma, endometrial adenocarcinoma and skin, gastric, breast, prostate, and cervical cancer. However, there are no reports on stigmasterol's effects on ovarian cancer.

Methods: We investigated the effects of stigmasterol on proapoptotic signals, mitochondrial function, reactive oxygen species production, and the cytosolic and mitochondrial calcium levels in human ovarian cancer cells, to understand the mechanisms underlying the effects of stigmasterol on ovarian cancer cells. We also conducted migration assay to confirm whether that stigmasterol inhibits ovarian cancer cell migration.

Results: Stigmasterol inhibited development of human ovarian cancer cells. However, it induced cell apoptosis, ROS production, and calcium overload in ES2 and OV90 cells. In addition, stigmasterol stimulated cell death by activating the ER-mitochondrial axis. We confirmed that stigmasterol suppressed cell migration and angiogenesis genes in human ovarian cancer cells.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that stigmasterol can be used as a new treatment for ovarian cancer.

Keywords: apoptosis; endoplasmic reticulum; migration; mitochondria; ovarian cancer; stigmasterol.