Unbalanced activation of ERK1/2 and MEK1/2 in apigenin-induced HeLa cell death

Franc Llorens, Francesc A. Miró, Arnau Casañas, Nerea Roher, Lourdes Garcia, Maria Plana, Néstor Gómez, Emilio Itarte

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31 Citations (Scopus)


Apigenin, a dietary bioflavonoid with anticarcinogenic properties, was highly cytotoxic for HeLa cells (incubated with 0.5% FBS). This effect was accompanied with a marked increase in ERK1/2 but not MEK1/2 phosphorylation. The cytotoxic effects of apigenin were attenuated by the stimulation of these cells with 10% FBS, which provoked an increase in the phosphorylation levels of MEK1/2 and ERK1/2. The steps in the ERK1/2 pathway relevant to the cytotoxic effects of apigenin, as well as the contribution of other signaling pathways, were investigated. The activation of the pathway by transfection with the constitutively active Ras mutant (RasV12) conferred protection to serum-starved HeLa cells against apigenin, whereas the constitutively active MEK(E) mutant did not. MEK inhibitors (PD098059 or U0126) blocked ERK1/2 phosphorylation induced by apigenin and conferred partial protection against this flavonoid. The effects of apigenin did not involve p38-MAPK or JNK1/2, and were not simply due to inhibition of PI3kinase or protein kinase CK2. These data suggest that the deregulation of the ERK1/2 pathway, due to the potentiation of ERK1/2 phosphorylation without increasing MEK1/2 phosphorylation, is involved in apigenin-induced HeLa cell death. © 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-26
JournalExperimental Cell Research
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sept 2004


  • Apigenin
  • CK2
  • Cell death
  • ERK1/2
  • FBS
  • HeLa cells
  • JNK
  • MAP kinase pathway
  • Protein kinase CK2
  • c-Jun N-terminal kinase (also known as SAPK)
  • foetal bovine serum
  • protein kinase CK2 (also known as casein kinase 2)


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