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Inhibition of Autophagy Amplifies Baicalein-Induced Apoptosis in Human Colorectal Cancer

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Baicalein is a Chinese herbal compound extracted from Scutellaria baicalensis that has anti-tumor properties. The aim of this study was to elucidate the mechanisms of action of baicalein against human colorectal cancer cell lines and to assess whether the anti-proliferative effects of baicalein may be amplified with autophagy inhibition.

Human colon cancer cell lines (HT-29, HCT-116, SW480, and SW620) were treated with baicalein alone and in combination with the autophagy inhibitor chloroquine (CQ). Baicalein reduced cell viability in all four colon cancer lines in a dose-dependent fashion. Combination treatment of baicalein and the autophagy inhibitor CQ significantly decreased cell viability compared with baicalein alone in HT-29 and HCT-116 cell lines. Western blot analysis of the HCT-116 cell line treated with both baicalein and CQ demonstrated increased expression of LC3-II, a component of autophagy.

The combination of baicalein with CQ culminated in activation of caspase-3-mediated apoptosis. These findings demonstrate that inhibition of autophagy enhanced apoptotic cell death induced by baicalein treatment in colon cancer cell lines.

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