Zerumbone, a bioactive sesquiterpene, induces G2/M cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in leukemia cells via a Fas- and mitochondria-mediated pathway

Mingji Xian, Keisuke Ito, Tomonori Nakazato, Takatsune Shimizu, Chien Kang Chen, Kenji Yamato, Akira Murakami, Hajime Ohigashi, Yasuo Ikeda, Masahiro Kizaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

93 Scopus citations


We demonstrated here for the first time that zerumbone (ZER), a natural cyclic sesquiterpene, significantly suppressed the proliferation of promyelocytic leukemia NB4 cells among several leukemia cell lines, but not human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs), by inducing G2/M cell cycle arrest followed by apoptosis with 10 μM of IC50. Treatment of NB4 cells with growth-suppressive concentrations of ZER resulted in G2/M cell cycle arrest that was associated with a decline of Cyclin B1 protein, but with the phosphorylation of ATM/Chk1/Chk2. In addition, ZER induced the phosphorylation of Cdc25C at the Thr48 residue and Cdc2 at the Thr14/Tyr15 residues. Furthermore, ZER-induced apoptosis in NB4 cells was initiated by the expression of Fas (CD95)/Fas Ligand (CD95L), concomitant with the activation of caspase-8. ZER was also found to induce the cleavage of Bid, a mediator that is known to connect the Fas/CD95 cell death receptor to the mitochondrial apoptosis pathway. ZER also induced the cleavage of Bax and Mcl-1 proteins, but not Bcl-2 or Bcl-XL. ZER-induced apoptosis took place in association with a loss of the mitochondrial transmembrane potential as well as the activation of caspase-3 and -9, resulting in the degradation of the proteolytic poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP). ZER also triggered a release of cytochrome c into the cytoplasm. Both antagonistic anti-Fas antibody ZB4 and pan-caspase inhibitor Z-VAD inhibited ZER-induced apoptosis in NB4 cells. Taken together, ZER is an inducer of apoptosis in leukemic cells that specifically triggers the Fas/CD95- and mitochondria-mediated apoptotic signaling pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-126
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

Cite this