Cell death & disease

Escin induces caspase-dependent apoptosis and autophagy through the ROS/p38 MAPK signalling pathway in human osteosarcoma cells in vitro and in vivo.

PMID 29022891


Osteosarcoma is one of the most malignant neoplasms in adolescents, and it generally develops multidrug resistance. Escin, a natural mixture of triterpene saponins isolated from Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut), has demonstrated potent anti-tumour potential in vitro and in vivo. In the present study, we found that escin inhibited osteosarcoma proliferation in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Additionally, escin-induced apoptosis was evidenced by the increased expression of caspase-related proteins and the formation of apoptotic bodies. Escin also induced autophagy, with elevated LC3, ATG5, ATG12 and Beclin expression as well as autophagosome formation. Inhibition of escin-induced autophagy promoted apoptosis. Moreover, p38 mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) and reactive oxygen species (ROS) were activated by escin. A p38 MAPK inhibitor partially attenuated the autophagy and apoptosis triggered by escin, but a ROS scavenger showed a greater inhibitory effect. Finally, the therapeutic efficacy of escin against osteosarcoma was demonstrated in an orthotopic model. Overall, escin counteracted osteosarcoma by inducing autophagy and apoptosis via the activation of the ROS/p38 MAPK signalling pathway; these findings provide evidence for escin as a novel and potent therapeutic for the treatment of osteosarcoma.