Anticancer effects of ginsenoside Rk3 on non-small cell lung cancer cells: in vitro and in vivo
Ginsenoside Rk3 (Rk3) is present in the roots of processed Panax notoginseng herbs and it exerts anti-platelet aggregation, pro-immunogenic and cardioprotective effects. However, little is known regarding the anticancer activities of this compound, especially in lung cancer. This study was designed to investigate the anticancer effects of Rk3 on non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells and in an H460 xenograft tumor model. Our results showed that Rk3 reduced cell viability, inhibited both cell proliferation and colony formation, and induced G1 phase cell cycle arrest by downregulating the expression of cyclin D1 and CDK4 and upregulating the expression of P21. Rk3 also induced apoptosis in a concentration-dependent manner in H460 and A549 cells by Annexin V/PI staining, TUNEL assay and JC-1 staining, resulting in a change in the nuclear morphology. Moreover, Rk3 induced the activation of caspase-8, -9, and -3, promoted changes in mitochondrial membrane potential, decreased the expression of Bcl-2, increased the expression of Bax, and caused the release of cytochrome c, which indicated that the apoptosis-inducing effects of Rk3 were triggered via death receptor-mediated mitochondria-dependent pathways. Furthermore, Rk3 significantly inhibited the growth of H460 xenograft tumors without an obvious effect on the body weight of the treated mice. Histological analysis indicated that Rk3 inhibited tumor growth by altering the proliferation and morphology of tumor cells. In addition, we confirmed that Rk3 inhibited angiogenesis via CD34 staining and chick embryo chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) assay in vivo. Taken together, our findings revealed not only the anticancer effect of Rk3 on NSCLC cells but also a new promising therapeutic agent for human NSCLC.