Emodin inhibits colon cancer by altering BCL-2 family proteins and cell survival pathways

Ian T. Saunders, Hina Mir, Neeraj Kapur, Shailesh Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Background: Currently offered therapeutics to treat colon cancer (CoCa) are toxic when given at maximum tolerated dose to achieve optimal clinical response. Hence, less toxic therapeutic intervention is needed to treat CoCa. In this study, we investigated the effect of a natural agent, Emodin, on CoCa. Methods: Cell viability (MTT) assay was used to determine the effect of Emodin on human CoCa and colon epithelial cells. Flow cytometric analysis was used to determine Emodin induced cell death. Antibody microarray and western blot analyses were used to determine Emodin induced molecular changes involved in cell death. Change in mitochondrial membrane potential in response to Emodin was determined by flow cytometric analysis. Expression and localization of Bcl-2 family proteins were assessed by western blot analysis. Results: Emodin decreased viability of CoCa cells and induced apoptosis in a time and dose-dependent manner compared to vehicle-treated control without significantly impacting normal colon epithelial cells. Emodin activated caspases, modulated Bcl-2 family of proteins and reduced mitochondrial membrane potential to induce CoCa cell death. Further, changes in Bcl-2 family protein expression and localization correlated with loss in mitochondrial membrane potential. Signaling (MAPK/JNK, PI3K/AKT, NF-κβ and STAT) pathways associated with cell growth, differentiation, and Bcl-2 family expression or function were negatively regulated by Emodin. Conclusions: Ability of Emodin to impact molecular pathways involved in cell survival and apoptosis highlight the potential of this agent as a new and less toxic alternative for CoCa treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number98
JournalCancer Cell International
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 15 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Author(s).


  • Anthraquinone
  • Apoptosis
  • Bcl-2
  • Colon cancer
  • Emodin
  • Mitochondria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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