Mechanism of Activation of Caspase Cascade During beta-Carotene-Induced Apoptosis in Human Tumor Cells

Simona Serini, Federica Wolf, Gabriella Calviello, Paola Palozza, Angela Torsello, Fiorella Di Nicuolo, Nicola Giuseppe Maggiano, Franco Oreste Ranelletti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In this study, we examined possible mechanisms of caspase activation during carotenoid-induced apoptosis in tumor cells. We found that beta-Carotene induces apoptosis by the activation of caspase-3 in human leukemia (HL-60), colon adenocarcinoma (HT-29) as well as melanoma (SK-MEL-2) cell lines. This activation is dose dependent and follows that of caspase-8 and caspase-9. Although caspase-8 cleavage is an early event, reaching its maximum activation at 3 h, caspase-9 reaches its maximum activation only at 6 h. The addition of IETD-CHO, a caspase-8-specific inhibitor, completely prevents beta-Carotene-induced apoptosis, whereas only a partial prevention was observed in the presence of LEHD-CHO, a caspase-9-specific inhibitor. beta-Carotene activates caspase-9 via cytochrome c release from mitochondria and loss of mitochondrial membrane potential (Dym). Concomitantly, a dose-dependent decrease in the antiapoptotic protein Bcl-2 and a dose-dependent increase in the cleaved form of BID (t-BID) are observed. Moreover, NF-kB activation is involved in beta-Carotene-induced caspase cascade. These results support a pharmacological role for beta-Carotene as a candidate antitumor agent and show a possible sequence of molecular events by which this molecule may induce apoptosis in tumor cells.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-87
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • BID
  • carotenoids
  • caspase


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