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Lycorine induces cell-cycle arrest in the G0/G1 phase in K562 cells via HDAC inhibition

Lv Li1, Hong-Juan Dai1, Mao Ye2*, Shu-Ling Wang1, Xiao-Juan Xiao1, Jie Zheng3, Hui-Yong Chen1, Yu-hao Luo1 and Jing Liu1*

Author Affiliations

1 Molecular Biology Research Center, School of Biological Science and Technology, Central South University, Changsha, Hunan 410078, China

2 Molecular Science and Biomedicine Laboratory, State Key Laboratory for Chemo/Biosensing and Chemometrics, College of Biology, Hunan University, Changsha 410082, China

3 Department of Pharmacology, School of Pharmaceutical Science, Central South University, Changsha, Hunan, 410078, China

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Cancer Cell International 2012, 12:49  doi:10.1186/1475-2867-12-49

Published: 23 November 2012



Lycorine, a natural alkaloid extracted from Amaryllidaceae, has shown various pharmacological effects. Recent studies have focused on the potential antitumor activity of lycorine. In our previous study, we found that lycorine decrease the cell viability of leukemia HL-60 cells and multiple myeloma KM3 cells and induces cell apoptosis. However, the effect and molecular mechanism of lycorine on human chronic myelocytic leukemia cells has yet to be determined.


Human chronic myelocytic leukemia cells K562 were treated with lycorine. Cell viability was monitored using the method of CCK-8. The histone deacetylase (HDAC) enzymatic activity was detected by HDAC colorimetric assay, and the cell cycle was analyzed by flow cytometry. The expression of cell-cycle related proteins were identified using Western blot.


In the present study, we further revealed that lycorine can inhibit the proliferation of K562 cells. Analysis of HDAC activity showed that lycroine decreases HDAC enzymatic activities in K562 cells in a dose-dependent manner. Inhibition of HDAC activity has been associated with cell-cycle arrest and growth inhibition. We evaluated the cell cycle distribution after lycorine treatment and found that lycorine causes cell-cycle arrest in the G0/G1 phase. To investigate the mechanism behind this cell cycle arrest, G1-related proteins were assayed by Western blot. After lycorine treatment, cyclin D1 and cyclin-dependent kinase 4 expressions were inhibited and retinoblastoma protein phosphorylation was reduced. Lycorine treatment also significantly upregulated the expression of p53 and its target gene product, p21.


These results suggest that inhibition of HDAC activity is responsible for at least part of the induction of cell-cycle arrest in the G0/G1 phase by lycorine and provide a mechanistic framework for further exploring the use of lycorine as a novel antitumor agent.

Lycorine; K562 cell line; HDAC inhibition; G0/G1 phase arrest