Journal of pharmacological sciences

Ursolic acid induces apoptosis through mitochondrial intrinsic pathway and suppression of ERK1/2 MAPK in HeLa cells.

PMID 24881958


Ursolic acid (UA), a natural pentacyclic triterpenoid compound, has been demonstrated to induce apoptosis in various tumors. The aim of the present study was to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of UA-induced apoptosis in HeLa cells. Here, we reported that UA induced apoptosis through the mitochondrial intrinsic pathway in HeLa cells, as shown by release of cytosol cytochrome c, activation of caspase-9 and -3, reduction of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL, and increase of Bax and Bak. UA down-regulated the phosphorylation of ERK1/2 and p38, whereas phosphorylation of JNK was unchanged. The roles of ERK1/2 and p38 were further confirmed using the ERK1/2 inhibitor (U0126) and p38 inhibitor (SB203580). U0126 markedly increased UA-induced the Bax/Bcl-2 ratio, the increase of cytosol cytochrome c, and the levels of cleaved caspase-3, but SB203580 had little effects on the above characters, suggesting the ERK1/2 signaling pathway is required for apoptosis. Furthermore, UA up-regulated DUSP 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10 mRNA expressions, which may be a clue for the role of dephosphorylation of ERK1/2 and p38. These data suggested that the apoptotic mechanism of UA treatment in HeLa cells was through the mitochondrial intrinsic pathway and closely associated with the suppression of the ERK1/2 signaling pathway.