2017 Volume 61 Issue 3 Pages 189-195
Monascus purpureus is a red dye derived from yeast rice and has been used as color additives for food in East Asia. Monascus purpureus consists of several bioactive components. Some of these components work as a radical scavenger, thus monascus purpureus would also eliminate reactive oxygen species. Cancer cells maintain the high level of reactive oxygen species than normal cell and are death by imbalance in pro-oxidant/antioxidant homeostasis. In this study, we investigated whether monascus purpureus induced cancer specific cell death by scavenging reactive oxygen species. Compared to normal cell, monascus purpureus had cancer specific cytotoxicity. Monascus purpureus and lovastatin, its component, scavenged free radicals caused by a xanthine/xanthine oxidase system, thus Monascus purpureus is likely to scavenge reactive oxygen species by a synergistic effect between lovastatin and other components. Monascus purpureus also decreased reactive oxygen species derived from mitochondria in cancer cells, and cellular apoptosis was induced via activation of caspase-9. Induction of apoptosis by reduction of reactive oxygen species generation decreased acid ceramidase, and this mechanism could be involved with increasing ceramide accumulation in cells.