Phytochemicals and mitochondria: Therapeutic allies against gastric cancer

Phytomedicine. 2023 Feb:110:154608. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2022.154608. Epub 2022 Dec 18.


Background: Mitochondria are the energy factories of cells with the ability to modulate the cell cycle, cellular differentiation, signal transduction, growth, and apoptosis. Existing drugs targeting mitochondria in cancer treatment have disadvantages of drug resistance and side effects. Phytochemicals, which are widely found in plants, are bioactive compounds that could facilitate the development of new drugs for gastric cancer. Studies have shown that some phytochemicals can suppress the development of gastric cancer.

Methods: We searched for data from PubMed, China National Knowledge Infrastructure, Web of Science, and Embase databases from initial establishment to December 2021 to review the mechanism by which phytochemicals suppress gastric cancer cell growth by modulating mitochondrial function. Phytochemicals were classified and summarized by their mechanisms of action.

Results: Phytochemicals can interfere with mitochondria through several mechanisms to reach the goal of promoting apoptosis in gastric cancer cells. Some phytochemicals, e.g., daidzein and tetrandrine promoted cytochrome c spillover into the cytoplasm by modulating the members of the B-cell lymphoma-2 protein family and induced apoptotic body activity by activating the caspase protein family. Phytochemicals (e.g., celastrol and shikonin) could promote the accumulation of reactive oxygen species and reduce the mitochondrial membrane potential. Several phytochemicals (e.g., berberine and oleanolic acid) activated mitochondrial apoptotic submission via the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase/Akt signaling pathway, thereby triggering apoptosis in gastric cancer cells. Several well-known phytochemicals that target mitochondria, including berberine, ginsenoside, and baicalein, showed the advantages of multiple targets, high efficacy, and fewer side effects.

Conclusions: Phytochemicals could target the mitochondria in the treatment of gastric cancer, providing potential directions and evidence for clinical translation. Drug discovery focused on phytochemicals has great potential to break barriers in cancer treatment.

Keywords: Cancer progression; Gastric cancer; Mitochondria; Phytochemicals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Berberine* / pharmacology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria
  • Phytochemicals / therapeutic use
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stomach Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Stomach Neoplasms* / metabolism


  • Berberine
  • Phytochemicals
  • Reactive Oxygen Species