European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 54, Issue 8, pp 1255–1267 | Cite as

Apigenin manipulates the ubiquitin–proteasome system to rescue estrogen receptor-β from degradation and induce apoptosis in prostate cancer cells

  • Vishal Singh
  • Vikas Sharma
  • Vikas Verma
  • Deepti Pandey
  • Santosh K. Yadav
  • Jagdamba P. Maikhuri
  • Gopal GuptaEmail author
Original Contribution



To investigate apigenin (5,7,4-trihydroxyflavone), a dietary flavonoid with proteasome-inhibitory activity (desired for the management of multiple types of cancers), against FDA-approved anticancer proteasome inhibitor bortezomib in context to its effects on the tumor suppressor estrogen receptor-beta (ER-β) in prostate cancer cells.


Prostate cancer (PC-3) cells were treated with either apigenin or bortezomib, and proliferation inhibition was correlated with proteasomal biochemistry, ER-degradation and cell apoptosis.


Apigenin specifically inhibited only chymotrypsin-like activity of proteasome without affecting trypsin and caspase-like activities, which was in contrast to the non-specific inhibition of all the three activities by bortezomib. Apigenin selectively increased the protein levels of ER-β at 1.8 and 10.0 µM (without affecting mRNA levels) and preferentially accumulated ubiquitinated ER-β over ER-α in PC-3. Apigenin-treated cells exhibited increased ER-β interactions with ubiquitin-protein ligase E6AP, downregulated PSMA5 (α-5 subunit for assembly of 20S proteasome) without affecting PSMB1 (β-1 subunit), PSMB2 (β-2 subunit) and PSMB5 (β-5 subunit, whose overexpression by bortezomib causes drug resistance) of proteasome at mRNA levels. Caspase-3 activation in PC-3 by apigenin was dependent on caspase-8 activity but independent of mitochondrial membrane depolarization. The deubiquitinase USP14 activity, which antagonizes degradation of proteins via proteasome, was significantly increased by apigenin treatment.


Apigenin selectively inhibits proteasomal degradation of tumor suppressor ER-β by specifically inhibiting chymotrypsin-like activity of proteasome, preventing its assembly via PSMA5 and inhibiting USP14 enzyme activity in prostate cancer cells, resulting in cancer cell apoptosis. Unlike bortezomib, apigenin’s actions are subtle, precise, mechanistically distinct and capable of abstaining drug resistance.


Apigenin Proteasome Ubiquitination Estrogen receptor-beta Bortezomib Prostate cancer 



This study was supported by a grant from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India (GAP0001). [CDRI communication number 8844]

Conflict of interest


Supplementary material

394_2014_803_MOESM1_ESM.docx (903 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 903 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vishal Singh
    • 1
  • Vikas Sharma
    • 1
  • Vikas Verma
    • 1
  • Deepti Pandey
    • 1
  • Santosh K. Yadav
    • 1
  • Jagdamba P. Maikhuri
    • 1
  • Gopal Gupta
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Division of EndocrinologyCSIR-Central Drug Research InstituteLucknowIndia

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