Background: Propofol (2, 6-diisopropylphenol) is an intravenous sedative-hypnotic agent administered to induce and maintain anesthesia. It has been recently revealed that propofol has anticancer properties including direct and indirect suppression of the viability and proliferation of cancer cells by promoting apoptosis in some cancer cell lines. Methodology/Principal Findings: This study aimed to establish a profile to quantitatively and functionally evaluate the anticancer properties of propofol in three cancer cell lines: non-small cell lung carcinoma cell line A549, human colon carcinoma cell line LoVo, and human breast cancer cell line SK-BR-3. We demonstrated that the expression level of caspase-3, an apoptosis biomarker, significantly increased in a dose-dependent manner after 24-h stimulation with 100 μM propofol in A549 cells, and slightly increased in LoVo cells. However, there was no change in caspase-3 expression in SK-BR-3 cells. High caspase-3 expression in A549 cells may be modulated by the ERK1/2 pathway because phosphorylated ERK1/2 dramatically reduced after propofol treatment. BAX, a major protein that promotes apoptosis in the regulation phase, was highly expressed in A549 cells after treatment with 25 μM propofol. Apoptosis induced by propofol may be associated with cancer cells carrying Kras mutations. Conclusions/Significance: Our results suggest that the anti-cancer effects of propofol, which are consistent with those of previous studies, are likely associated with the Kras mutation status. Only Kras mutation in Codon 12 instead of other Kras status has been demonstrated to play an important role in sensitizing the propofol-induced apoptosis in cancer cell lines from our study. These findings may enable us a detailed investigation of propofol/Kras-mediated cancer cell apoptosis in the future.
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