Ginsenoside 20(S)-Rg3 targets HIF-1α to block hypoxia-induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition in ovarian cancer cells.
PLoS One. 2014 ;9(9):e103887. Epub 2014 Sep 8. PMID: 25197976
The prognosis of patients with ovarian cancer has remained poor mainly because of aggressive cancer progression. Since epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is an important mechanism mediating invasion and metastasis of cancer cells, targeting the EMT process with more efficacious and less toxic compounds to inhibit metastasis is of great therapeutic value for the treatment of ovarian cancer. We have found for the first time that the ginsenoside 20(S)-Rg3, a pharmacologically active component of the traditional Chinese herb Panax ginseng, potently blocks hypoxia-induced EMT of ovarian cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. Mechanistic studies confirm the mode of action of 20(S)-Rg3, which reduces the expression of hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) by activating the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway to promote HIF-1α degradation. A decrease in HIF-1α in turn leads to up-regulation, via transcriptional suppression of Snail, of the epithelial cell-specific marker E-cadherin and down-regulation of the mesenchymal cell-specific marker vimentin under hypoxic conditions. Importantly, 20(S)-Rg3 effectively inhibits EMT in nude mouse xenograft models of ovarian cancer, promising a novel therapeutic agent for anticancer therapy.