International Journal of Biological Sciences

Impact factor

ISSN 1449-2288

News feeds of IJBS published articles
Manuscript login

open access Global reach, higher impact

Journal of Genomics in PubMed Central. Submit manuscript now...


International Journal of Medical Sciences

Journal of Cancer

Journal of Genomics


Journal of Bone and Joint Infection (JBJI)


Journal of Biomedicine

PubMed Central Indexed in Journal Impact Factor

Int J Biol Sci 2012; 8(3):394-405. doi:10.7150/ijbs.3882

Research Paper

Swainsonine Activates Mitochondria-mediated Apoptotic Pathway in Human Lung Cancer A549 Cells and Retards the Growth of Lung Cancer Xenografts

Zhaocai Li#, Xingang Xu#, Yong Huang, Li Ding, Zhisheng Wang, Gaoshui Yu, Dan Xu, Wei Li, Dewen Tong

College of Veterinary Medicine, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, P.R. China
# These authors contributed equally to this work.


Swainsonine (1, 2, 8-trihyroxyindolizidine, SW), a natural alkaloid, has been reported to exhibit anti-cancer activity on several mouse models of human cancer and human cancers in vivo. However, the mechanisms of SW-mediated tumor regression are not clear. In this study, we investigated the effects of SW on several human lung cancer cell lines in vitro. The results showed that SW significantly inhibited these cells growth through induction of apoptosis in different extent in vitro. Further studies showed that SW treatment up-regulated Bax, down-regulated Bcl-2 expression, promoted Bax translocation to mitochondria, activated mitochondria-mediated apoptotic pathway, which in turn caused the release of cytochrome c, the activation of caspase-9 and caspase-3, and the cleavage of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP), resulting in A549 cell apoptosis. However, the expression of Fas, Fas ligand (FasL) or caspase-8 activity did not appear significant changes in the process of SW-induced apoptosis. Moreover, SW treatment inhibited Bcl-2 expression, promoted Bax translocation, cytochrome c release and caspase-3 activity in xenograft tumor cells, resulting in a significant decrease of tumor volume and tumor weight in the SW-treated xenograft mice groups in comparison to the control group. Taken together, this study demonstrated for the first time that SW inhibited A549 cancer cells growth through a mitochondria-mediated, caspase-dependent apoptotic pathway in vitro and in vivo.

Keywords: swainsonine, apoptosis, caspase, mitochondrial pathway, A549 cells

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) License. See for full terms and conditions.
How to cite this article:
Li Z, Xu X, Huang Y, Ding L, Wang Z, Yu G, Xu D, Li W, Tong D. Swainsonine Activates Mitochondria-mediated Apoptotic Pathway in Human Lung Cancer A549 Cells and Retards the Growth of Lung Cancer Xenografts. Int J Biol Sci 2012; 8(3):394-405. doi:10.7150/ijbs.3882. Available from