Tumor Biology

, Volume 37, Issue 6, pp 7667–7674 | Cite as

The interplay between autophagy and apoptosis induced by tanshinone IIA in prostate cancer cells

  • Chunlong Li
  • Xiancheng Han
  • Hong Zhang
  • Jinsheng Wu
  • Bao Li
Original Article


Tanshinone IIA (T2A), a derivative of phenanthrenequinone and also the major active ingredient of Danshen, has been paid extensive attention as a promising cancer therapy for its potential anti-cancer activities. In this study, the apoptosis and autophagy of human prostate cancer PC-3 cells were observed after 5 μM T2A treatment, as well as their relevance. Mitochondrial-dependent apoptosis was firstly detected through morphological observation and biochemical analysis. Meanwhile, 5 μM T2A successfully triggered the autophagy of PC-3 cells, indicated by increased expression of Beclin1, and LC3 II. Validation experiments were conducted to further consolidate T2A’s contribution to autophagy: Pretreatment with autophagy inhibitor 3-methyladenine (3-MA) provided protection against autophagy and enhanced T2A-induced apoptosis. Besides, the apoptosis suppressor z-VAD-fmk failed to facilitate the formation of autophagic vacuoles, which also proved the T2A-induced autophagy independent of apoptosis. Moreover, the reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenger N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC) efficiently inhibited the expression of Beclin1, LC3-II, and cleaved caspase-3, which indicated apoptosis and autophagy with dependence on intracellular ROS production. Taken together, these results demonstrated that autophagy is the cytoprotective mechanism in this experimental system, and the ROS resulted from T2A treatment played a critical role in apoptosis and autophagy initiation.


Tanshinone IIA Apoptosis Autophagy Prostate cancer Reactive oxygen species 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© International Society of Oncology and BioMarkers (ISOBM) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chunlong Li
    • 1
  • Xiancheng Han
    • 1
  • Hong Zhang
    • 1
  • Jinsheng Wu
    • 1
  • Bao Li
    • 1
  1. 1.Urological DepartmentAffiliate Hospital of Weifang Medical UniversityWeifangChina

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