Biochimica et biophysica acta

Baicalein, a component of Scutellaria baicalensis, induces apoptosis by Mcl-1 down-regulation in human pancreatic cancer cells.

PMID 21596068


Scutellaria baicalensis (SB) and SB-derived polyphenols possess anti-proliferative activities in several cancers, including pancreatic cancer (PaCa). However, the precise molecular mechanisms have not been fully defined. SB extract and SB-derived polyphenols (wogonin, baicalin, and baicalein) were used to determine their anti-proliferative mechanisms. Baicalein significantly inhibited the proliferation of PaCa cell lines in a dose-dependent manner, whereas wogonin and baicalin exhibited a much less robust effect. Treatment with baicalein induced apoptosis with release of cytochrome c from mitochondria, and activation of caspase-3 and -7 and PARP. The general caspase inhibitor zVAD-fmk reversed baicalein-induced apoptosis, indicating a caspase-dependent mechanism. Baicalein decreased expression of Mcl-1, an anti-apoptotic member of the Bcl-2 protein family, presumably through a transcriptional mechanism. Genetic knockdown of Mcl-1 resulted in marked induction of apoptosis. The effect of baicalein on apoptosis was significantly attenuated by Mcl-1 over-expression, suggesting a critical role of Mcl-1 in this process. Our results provide evidence that baicalein induces apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells through down-regulation of the anti-apoptotic Mcl-1 protein.