We designed to study the role of mitochondria in astaxanthin-induced apoptosis in hepatocellular carcinoma cells. Effect of astaxanthin on cell proliferation was studied by using methyl thiazolyl tetrazolium (MTT) in three tumor cell lines (CBRH-7919, SHZ-88 and Lewis) and normal human hepatocyte HL-7702 cell. Cell apoptosis rate, changes of mitochondrial morphology, mitochondrial transmembrane potential and electron transport chain were evaluated respectively. Expressions of B cell lymphoma/leukemia-2 (Bcl-2) and Bcl-2 associated X protein (Bax) were detected by Western blot. Results as following, astaxanthin had little effect on HL-7702 cell, however its inhibition was most pronounced in CBRH-7919 cell line with an IC50 of 39 μM. This dose of astaxanthin and CBRH-7919 cell line were chosen for further studies. Astaxanthin could induce cell apoptosis and mitochondrial membrane damage. The mitochondrial transmembrane potential and function of electron transport chain were decreased. The expression of Bcl-2 protein was down-regulated but that of Bax protein was up-regulated. In conclusion, astaxanthin showed anticancer effect by inducing cell apoptosis through the regulation of mitochondrial-dependent manner.
2011 The Pharmaceutical Society of Japan