Anticolon Cancer Effect of Korean Red Ginseng via Autophagy- and Apoptosis-Mediated Cell Death

Nutrients. 2022 Aug 29;14(17):3558. doi: 10.3390/nu14173558.


Ginseng (Panax ginseng Meyer) has been used in East Asian traditional medicine for a long time. Korean red ginseng (KRG) is effective against several disorders, including cancer. The cytotoxic effects of KRG extract in terms of autophagy- and apoptosis-mediated cell death and its mechanisms were investigated using human colorectal cancer lines. KRG induced autophagy-mediated cell death with enhanced expression of Atg5, Beclin-1, and LC3, and formed characteristic vacuoles in HCT-116 and SNU-1033 cells. An autophagy inhibitor prevented cell death induced by KRG. KRG generated mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS); antioxidant countered this effect and decreased autophagy. KRG caused apoptotic cell death by increasing apoptotic cells and sub-G1 cells, and by activating caspases. A caspase inhibitor suppressed cell death induced by KRG. KRG increased phospho-Bcl-2 expression, but decreased Bcl-2 expression. Moreover, interaction of Bcl-2 with Beclin-1 was attenuated by KRG. Ginsenoside Rg2 was the most effective ginsenoside responsible for KRG-induced autophagy- and apoptosis-mediated cell death. KRG induced autophagy- and apoptosis-mediated cell death via mitochondrial ROS generation, and thus its administration may inhibit colon carcinogenesis.

Keywords: Korean red ginseng; anticancer effect; apoptosis; autophagy; colon cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Autophagy
  • Beclin-1
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms*
  • Panax* / metabolism
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism


  • Beclin-1
  • Plant Extracts
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Reactive Oxygen Species