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01.12.2017 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research 1/2017

Apigenin, by activating p53 and inhibiting STAT3, modulates the balance between pro-apoptotic and pro-survival pathways to induce PEL cell death

Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research > Ausgabe 1/2017
Marisa Granato, Maria Saveria Gilardini Montani, Roberta Santarelli, Gabriella D’Orazi, Alberto Faggioni, Mara Cirone



Apigenin is a flavonoid widely distributed in plant kingdom that exerts cytotoxic effects against a variety of solid and haematological cancers. In this study, we investigated the effect of apigenin against primary effusion lymphoma (PEL), a KSHV-associated B cell lymphoma characterized by a very aggressive behavior, displaying constitutive activation of STAT3 as well as of other oncogenic pathways and harboring wtp53.


Cell death was assessed by trypan blue exclusion assay, FACS analysis as well as by biochemical studies. The latter were also utilized to detect the occurrence of autophagy and the molecular mechanisms leading to the activation of both processes by apigenin. FACS analysis was used to measure the intracellular ROS utilizing DCFDA.


We show that apigenin induced PEL cell death and autophagy along with reduction of intracellular ROS. Mechanistically, apigenin activated p53 that induced catalase, a ROS scavenger enzyme, and inhibited STAT3, the most important pro-survival pathway in PEL, as assessed by p53 silencing. On the other hand, STAT3 inhibition by apigenin resulted in p53 activation, since STAT3 negatively influences p53 activity, highlighting a regulatory loop between these two pathways that modulates PEL cell death/survival.


The findings of this study demonstrate that apigenin may modulate pro-apoptotic and pro-survival pathways representing a valid therapeutic strategy against PEL.
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