In vitro and in vivo cytotoxicity of gossypol against central nervous system tumor cell lines

J Neurooncol. 1994;19(1):25-35. doi: 10.1007/BF01051046.


Gossypol is a lipid soluble polyphenolic compound isolated from cotton seed oil which has been previously shown to have antiproliferative activity in vitro against a variety of human solid tumor cell lines. It has been extensively tested in clinical trials as a male contraceptive agent and found to be well tolerated. Its mechanism of action is thought to be inhibition of cellular energy metabolism. It inhibits glycolysis through inhibition of LDH isoenzyme type 5, and it inhibits mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation and electron transport. We tested the in vitro antiproliferative effect of gossypol against four well characterized human glioma cell lines, HS 683, U373, U87 and U138, and one rat glioma cell line, C6, using the colorimetric Microculture Tetrazolium Assay (MTT). Cytotoxicity was found to be concentration and time dependent and increased with incubation times up to 8 days. The relative sensitivity of the glioma cell lines to gossypol at 48 hour incubation correlated with their respective LDH isoenzyme profiles, with the more sensitive cell lines expressing increased cathodal LDH isoenzymes (LDH5). The in vitro cytotoxicity of gossypol to these CNS tumor lines was compared to the other non central nervous system solid tumor cell lines which had been previously reported as being sensitive to gossypol, including SW-13 (adrenal), MCF-7 (breast), T47-D (breast), and HeLa (cervical). Additional lines tested included SK-MEL-3 (melanoma), Colo 201 (colon) and BRW, a line established in our laboratory from a patient with a Primitive Neuroectodermal tumor. C6, HS 683, and BRW had similar IC50s as the sensitive solid tumor cell lines. U373, U87 and U138 had significantly less sensitivity at 48 hours. There was greater cytotoxicity and no significant differences in the IC50s between any of cell lines at 8 day incubations. Additionally, we tested the cytotoxicity of gossypol against BRW in vivo, using the nude mouse xenograft model. Gossypol, given at a dose of 30 mg/kg per day five days a week for four weeks orally via gavage, was found to decrease the mean tumor weight of treated xenografts by more than 50% as compared to untreated xenografts. These findings suggest that gossypol has potential for further study as an agent for the treatment of primary CNS malignancies.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Glioma / drug therapy
  • Glioma / enzymology
  • Glioma / pathology*
  • Gossypol / pharmacology*
  • Gossypol / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Rats
  • Tetrazolium Salts
  • Thiazoles
  • Transplantation, Heterologous
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Isoenzymes
  • Tetrazolium Salts
  • Thiazoles
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase
  • thiazolyl blue
  • Gossypol