Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology

, Volume 62, Issue 6, pp 1015–1026 | Cite as

Reversal of P-glycoprotein-mediated multidrug resistance of cancer cells by five schizandrins isolated from the Chinese herb Fructus Schizandrae

Original Article



Fructus Schizandrae (FS) is commonly used as a tonic in traditional Chinese medicine. Recently, FS was found to significantly improve liver dysfunction in chronic hepatitis patients. The present study was to assess the reversal effect of five schizandrins and crude extract from FS (named LCC) on multidrug resistance (MDR) of cancer cells, both in vitro and in vivo. Chemically, the five schizandins are derivatives of dibenzo-(a, c)-cyclooctene lignan with distinct structures differing from any known MDR reversal agents.


A panel of sensitive and resistant cancer cell lines were treated with various concentrations of LCC and schizandrins. Drug sensitivity, accumulation of Doxorubicin (Dox), expression of P-glycoprotein and protein kinase C (PKC), and apoptosis were determined in vitro. The in vivo effect was tested in nude mice grafted with sensitive and resistant human epidermal cancer cell line to vincristine (VCR) (KB, KBv200).


The tested five compounds at 25 μM showed various levels of MDR reversal activity, of which, schizandrin A (Sin A) was the most potent one. Sin A reversed VCR resistance in KBv200 cells, MCF-7/Dox cells and Bel7402 cells by 309-, 38-, and 84-folds, respectively. Also, Sin A reversed the resistance of Dox in the above cancer cell lines. LCC at 25 μg/ml reversed VCR resistance by 619-folds in KBv200, 181-folds in MCF-7/Dox cell line, and 1,563-folds in innate resistance of human hepatic cellular carcinoma Bel7402 cells to VCR. Furthermore, LCC and its active component Sin A potently reversed the cross-resistance to paclitaxel in those cell lines. Both Sin A and LCC markedly increased intracellular Dox accumulation and enhanced apoptosis, down-regulated Pgp protein and mRNA and total PKC expression in MDR cells. Coadministration of LCC (p.o.) significantly potentiated the inhibitory effect of VCR (i.p.) on tumor growth in nude mice bearing KBv200 xenograft.


The LCC and its active component Sin A have remarkable reversal effect on MDR in cancer cells by inhibition of both the function and expression of Pgp and total PKC.


Multidrug resistance Pgp Fructus Schizandrae Schizandrins 



Fructus Schizandrae

Sin A

Schizandrin A

Sin B

Schizandrin B

Sin C

Schizandrin C

Sol A

Schizandrol A

Sol B

Schizandrol B










Crude extract of Fructus Schizandrae


Protein kinase C




3-(4,5-Dimethylthiazole-2-yle)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide

Rho 123

Rhodamine 123


Propidium iodide


Fluorescence isothiocyanate








Nitroblue tetrazolium chloride





This work was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 30630069).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology, Institute of Materia MedicaPeking Union Medical College and Chinese Academy of Medical SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Division of Oncology, Department of Internal MedicineStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  3. 3.Welsh School of PharmacyCardiff University CardiffUK

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