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Silibinin suppresses TGFβ2-induced lens epithelial cell migration and epithelial–mesenchymal transition


Growth factor-induced migration of lens epithelial cell (LEC) toward the posterior of lens capsule bag and their epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) is the key process involved in the pathogenesis of posterior capsular opacification (PCO). Silibinin, a natural flavonolignan, confers therapeutic effects to different cells by regulation of signalling pathways; however, its role in the prevention of migration and EMT of LECs is yet to be analysed. In this study, the inhibitory capabilities of silibinin on migration and EMT were analysed in response to TGFβ2 stimulation in HLE B-3 cells. The anti-migratory effect of silibinin was analysed using wound healing assay. Transcriptional and translational expression of genes related to LEC migration, EMT, and transcription factors related to EMT were studied by quantitative real-time PCR and Western blotting. Immunofluorescence analysis was utilized to study the localization of fibronectin. Silibinin reduced the viability of LECs in a concentration-dependent manner and inhibited the wound healing capacity of LECs induced by TGFβ2. Silibinin also suppressed alteration in the EMT-related markers such as cytoskeletal proteins, cell adhesion markers, extracellular matrix molecules, and transcription factors. Analysis of downstream signalling revealed that treatment with silibinin decreased phosphorylated Akt (Ser473, Thr308), PDK1 (Ser241), PTEN (Ser380), c-Raf (Ser259), and GSK3β (Ser9) in TGFβ-stimulated cells. The effect of silibinin treatment on phosphorylated Akt resembled that of the PI3K inhibitor LY294002. Our results suggest that silibinin can suppress LEC migration and EMT, which involves the inactivation of the PI3K-Akt signalling pathway. Silibinin might be a good candidate for PCO prevention; however, functional evaluation of silibinin using in vivo models is a pre-requisite.

Graphical abstract

Inhibitory effect of silibinin on TGFβ2-induced migration and EMT of LECs.

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protein kinase B


bovine serum albumin


cyclooxygenase 1/2


connective tissue growth factor






enhanced chemiluminescence


epidermal growth factor


epithelial–mesenchymal transition


extracellular signal-regulated kinase


glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase


glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta


hepatocyte growth factor


horseradish peroxidase

IC50 :

half maximal inhibitory concentration


intraocular lens


intraocular pressure


C-jun N-terminal kinase


lens epithelial cell


mitogen-activated protein kinase


matrix metalloproteinase 9


(3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide


neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet


phosphor Akt


phosphate-buffered saline


posterior capsular opacification


3-phosphoinositide-dependent protein kinase 1


phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase


phosphatase and tensin homolog


quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction


sodium dodecyl sulfate


tris-buffered saline


tris-buffered saline plus tween 20


transforming growth factor-beta 2


vascular endothelial growth factor


zinc finger E-box binding homeobox


zona occludens/tight junction protein 1


alpha smooth muscle actin


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This work was a part of PBM’s PhD programme, Iladevi Cataract and IOL Research Centre, Ahmedabad, India, and Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal, India, and the authors acknowledge Indian Council of Medical Research, India, for providing Senior Research Fellowship (BMS/Nan/2020_6123) to PBM.

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Correspondence to Kaid Johar SR.

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Communicated by Dipankar Nandi.

Corresponding editor: Dipankar Nandi

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Malaviya, P.B., Shukal, D.K., Sharma, T. et al. Silibinin suppresses TGFβ2-induced lens epithelial cell migration and epithelial–mesenchymal transition. J Biosci 47, 51 (2022).

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  • Epithelial–mesenchymal transition
  • lens epithelial cells
  • PI3K-Akt pathway
  • posterior capsular opacification
  • silibinin
  • TGFβ