Structure-activity relationships of flavonoids and the induction of granulocytic- or monocytic-differentiation in HL60 human myeloid leukemia cells

Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 1998 Nov;62(11):2199-204. doi: 10.1271/bbb.62.2199.


The flavones apigenin and luteolin strongly inhibited the growth of HL60 cells and induced morphological differentiation into granulocytes. The flavonol quercetin inhibited the cell growth and induced a differentiation marker, i.e., NBT reducing ability. However quercetin-treated cells were not morphologically differentiated into granulocytes. The chalcone phloretin weakly induced NBT reducing ability and a marker of monocytic differentiation alpha-naphthyl butyrate esterase activity in the cells. Quercetin and phloretin appeared to induce the differentiation of HL60 cells into monocytes. The proportion of alpha-naphthyl butyrate esterase-positive cells induced by genistein was less than that of the NBT-positive cells. Some of the nuclei in genistein-treated HL60 cells morphologically changed. Genistein must have induced both granulocytic and monocytic differentiation of HL60 cells. The flavonols galangin and kaempferol, which had fewer hydroxyl group(s) in the B-ring than quercetin, and the flavanone naringenin inhibited the growth but did not induce the differentiation of HL60 cells.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation
  • Flavonoids / chemistry*
  • Flavonoids / physiology
  • Granulocytes / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid / metabolism
  • Leukemia, Myeloid / pathology
  • Leukemia, Myeloid / physiopathology*
  • Macrophages / pathology*
  • Monocytes / pathology*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Flavonoids