, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 115-122

Withaferin A is a potent inhibitor of angiogenesis

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The medicinal plant Withania somnifera is widely researched for its anti-inflammatory, cardioactive and central nervous system effects. In Ayurveda, the major Traditional Indian medicine system, extracts from W. somnifera are distinctively employed for the treatment of arthritis and menstrual disorders. Because these conditions involve angiogenic processes we hypothesized that the W. somnifera extracts might contain angiogenesis inhibitors. We employed an endothelial cell-sprouting assay to monitor the purification of substances from W. somnifera root extracts and isolated as the active principle the previously known natural product withaferin A. We show that withaferin A inhibits human umbilical vein endothelial cell (HUVEC) sprouting in three-dimensional collagen-I matrix at doses which are relevant to NF-kappa B-inhibitory activity. Withaferin A inhibits cell proliferation in HUVECs (IC50=12 nM) at doses that are significantly lower than those required for tumor cell lines through a process associated with inhibition of cyclin D1 expression. We propose that the inhibition of NF-kappa B by withaferin A in HUVECs occurs by interference with the ubiquitin-mediated proteasome pathway as suggested by the increased levels of poly-ubiquitinated proteins. Finally, withaferin A is shown to exert potent anti-angiogenic activity in vivo at doses that are 500-fold lower than those previously reported to exert anti-tumor activity in vivo. In conclusion, our findings identify a novel mode of action of withaferin A, which highlights the potential use of this natural product for cancer treatment or prevention.