Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity

The critical role of redox homeostasis in shikonin-induced HL-60 cell differentiation via unique modulation of the Nrf2/ARE pathway.

PMID 23119122


Among various cancer cell lines, the leukemia cell line HL-60 was most sensitive to Shikonin, with evidence showing both the prooxidative activities and proapoptotic effects of micromolar concentrations of Shikonin. However, the mechanism involved in the cytotoxicity of Shikonin in the submicromolar range has not been fully characterized. Using biochemical and free radical biological experiments in vitro, we identified the prodifferentiated profiles of Shikonin and evaluated the redox homeostasis during HL-60 differentiation. The data showed a strong dose-response relationship between Shikonin exposure and the characteristics of HL-60 differentiation in terms of morphology changes, nitroblue tetrazolium (NBT) reductive activity, and the expression level of surface antigens CD11b/CD14. During drug exposure, intercellular redox homeostasis changes towards oxidation are necessary to support Shikonin-induced differentiation, which was proven by additional enzymatic and non-enzymatic redox modulators. A statistically significant and dose-dependent increase (P < 0.05) was recorded with regard to the unique expression levels of the Nrf2/ARE downstream target genes in HL-60 cells undergoing late differentiation, which were restored with further antioxidants employed with the Shikonin treatment. Our research demonstrated that Shikonin is a differentiation-inducing agent, and its mechanisms involve the Nrf2/ARE pathway to modulate the intercellular redox homeostasis, thus facilitating differentiation.

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Nitro Blue Tetrazolium, tablet
Shikonin, ≥98% (HPLC)