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Medical Science Monitor Basic Research


eISSN: 1643-3750

Mukonal Inhibits Cell Proliferation, Alters Mitochondrial Membrane Potential and Induces Apoptosis and Autophagy in Human CNE1 Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma Cells

Yingyuan Guo, Yanru Hao, Guofang Guan, Shuaishuai Ma, Zhiling Zhu, Fang Guo, Jie Bai

Department of Otolaryngology, The Second Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun, Jilin, China (mainland)

Med Sci Monit 2019; 25:1976-1983

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.913915

Available online:

Published: 2019-03-16


BACKGROUND: Nasopharyngeal carcinoma results in high patient morbidity and mortality, due to early metastasis, and toxicity due to chemotherapy. Mukonal is plant-derived carbazole alkaloid that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat several types of cancer. This study aimed to investigate the effects of mukonal on cell proliferation, apoptosis, autophagy, and the mitochondrial membrane potential of nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells in vitro.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: CNE1 human nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells and NP69 normal nasopharyngeal epithelial cells were cultured with and without treatment with increasing doses of mukonal. Cell viability was determined by the MTT assay. Fluorescence microscopy was used to detect reactive oxygen species (ROS), mitochondrial membrane potential, and the release of cytochrome C. Flow cytometry was used to examine changes in the cell cycle, electron microscopy examined cell autophagy, and Western blot was performed to measure levels of proteins associated with autophagy and apoptosis.
RESULTS: Mukonal had an antiproliferative effect on CNE1 cells, with an IC₅₀ of 9 µM and there were effects of toxicity on normal NP69 cells. Mukonal triggered ROS-mediated changes in mitochondrial membrane potential which was also accompanied by the discharge of cytochrome C in the CNE1 cells. Mukonal activated autophagy and apoptosis in CNE1 cells, which was also associated with upregulation of the autophagy-related proteins, LC3 II and beclin-1, as well as apoptosis-associated proteins, Bax, cleaved caspase-3 and -9. Mukonal treatment also resulted in CNE1 cells cycle arrest at G₂/M.
CONCLUSIONS: Mukonal inhibited the growth of human CNE1 nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells in vitro.

Keywords: Autophagy, Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms