Apigenin, abundantly present in fruits and vegetables, is recognized as a flavonoid with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticancer properties. In this study, we first investigated the anti-neoplastic effects of apigenin on papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) cell line BCPAP cells. Our results show that apigenin inhibited the viability of BCPAP cells in a dose-dependent manner. A large body of evidence demonstrates that autophagy contributes to cell death in certain contexts. In the present study, autophagy was induced by apigenin treatment in BCPAP cells, as evidenced by Beclin-1 accumulation, conversion of LC3 protein, p62 degradation as well as the significantly increased formation of acidic vesicular organelles (AVOs) compared to the control group. 3-MA, an autophagy inhibitor, rescued the cells from apigenin-induced cell death. Notably, apigenin enhanced production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and subsequent induction of significant DNA damage as monitored by the TUNEL assay. In addition, apigenin treatment caused a significant accumulation of cells in the G2/M phase via down-regulation of Cdc25C expression. Our findings reveal that apigenin inhibits papillary thyroid cancer cell viability by the stimulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, induction of DNA damage, leading to G2/M cell cycle arrest followed by autophagic cell death. Thus, our results provide new insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying apigenin-mediated autophagic cell death and suggest apigenin as a potential chemotherapeutic agent which is able to fight against papillary thyroid cancer.
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