AIM: To investigate the effects of ESC-3 isolated from crocodile bile on the growth and apoptosis induction of human cholangiocarcinoma cells.
METHODS: ESC-3 was isolated from crocodile bile by Sephadex LH-20 and RP-18 reversed-phase column. 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide assay was conducted to determine the effects of ESC-3 on the proliferation of human cholangiocarcinoma cell lines (QBC939, Sk-ChA-1 and MZ-ChA-1). Giemsa staining, Hoechst 33258 and acridine orange/ethidium bromide staining showed the morphological changes of Mz-ChA-1 cells exposed to ESC-3 at different concentrations. Flow cytometry with regular propidium iodide (PI) staining was performed to analyze the cell cycle distribution of Mz-ChA-1 cells and to assess apoptosis by annexin v-fluorescein isothiocyanate (V-FITC)/PI staining. Rh123 staining was used to detect the alteration of mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm). The protein levels of Bax, Bcl-2, Cdk2, cytochrome c and caspase-3 were further confirmed by Western blotting.
RESULTS: ESC-3 significantly inhibited the growth of three human cholangiocarcinoma cell lines and arrested Mz-ChA-1 cell cycle at G0/G1 phase. Mz-ChA-1 cells showed typical apoptotic morphological changes after treated with ESC-3 (10 μg/mL) for 48 h. Cell death assay indicated that Mz-ChA-1 cells underwent apoptosis in a dose-dependent manner induced by ESC-3. In addition, ESC-3 treatment could downregulate the protein level of Bcl-2 and upregulate the Bax, leading to the increase in the ratio of Bax to Bcl-2 in Mz-ChA-1 cells. Meanwhile, cytochrome c was released from the mitochondria into the cytosol, which subsequently initiated the activation of caspase-3. All these events were associated with the collapse of the mitochondrial membrane potential.
CONCLUSION: ESC-3, the active ingredient of crocodile bile, induced apoptosis in Mz-ChA-1 cells through the mitochondria-dependent pathway and may be a potential chemotherapeutic drug for the treatment of cholangiocarcinoma.