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Withaferin a Induces P53-Dependent Apoptosis by Repression of HPV Oncogenes and Upregulation of Tumor Suppressor Proteins in Human Cervical Cancer Cells

Ashwagandha is an exotic Indian herb which has remarkable stress-relieving properties. In addition to its excellent protective effects on the nervous system, ashwaganDHA may be a promising alternative treatment for a variety of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. AshwaganDHA has powerful antioxidant properties that seek and destroy the free radicals that have been implicated in aging and numerous disease states. Even more remarkable, emerging evidence suggests that ashwaganDHA has anti-cancer benefits as well.

Munagala R, Kausar H, Munjal C, Gupta RC. Withaferin A induces p53-dependent apoptosis by repression of HPV oncogenes and upregulation of tumor suppressor proteins in human cervical cancer cells. 1. Carcinogenesis. 2011 Nov;32(11):1697-705. Epub 2011 Aug 22.

Cervical cancer is caused by human papilloma virus (HPV) expressing E6 and E7 oncoproteins, which are known to inactivate tumor suppressor proteins p53 and pRb, respectively. Repression of HPV oncoproteins would therefore result in reactivation of tumor suppressor pathways and cause apoptosis in cancer cells. Withaferin A (WA), the active component of the medicinal plant Withania somnifera, has exhibited inhibitory effects against several different cancers. We examined the activity of WA on human cervical cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. WA potently inhibited proliferation of the cervical cancer cells, CaSki (IC(50) 0.45 ? 0.05 ?M). Mechanistically, WA was found to (i) downregulate expression of HPV E6 and E7 oncoproteins, (ii) induce accumulation of p53, (iii) increase levels of p21(cip1/waf1) and its interaction with proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), (iv) cause G(2)/M cell cycle arrest, associated with modulation of cyclin B1, p34(cdc2) and PCNA levels, (v) decrease the levels of STAT3 and its phosphorylation at Tyr(705) and Ser(727) and (vi) alter expression levels of p53-mediated apoptotic markers-Bcl2, Bax, caspase-3 and cleaved PARP. In vivo, WA resulted in reduction of nearly 70% of the tumor volume in athymic nude mice with essentially similar trend in the modulation of molecular markers as in vitro. This is the first demonstration indicating that WA significantly downregulates expression of HPV E6/E7 oncogenes and restores the p53 pathway, resulting in apoptosis of cervical cancer cells. Together, our data suggest that WA can be exploited as a potent therapeutic agent for the treatment and prevention of cervical cancer without deleterious effects.