Functional components of insect tea induce apoptosis in HepG2 cancer cells

Insect tea is a special tea drink made from the fecula of insect larvae whose diet consists of fermented medicinal leaves. In a study published in CyTA – Journal of Food, researchers proved that the ethanolic extracts of insect tea (ITEE) can induce apoptosis in HepG2 human liver cancer cells.

  • Treatment for 48 hours induced apoptosis levels that varied with the concentration of ITEE. Specifically, 30, 80, and 160 micrograms per milliliter (mcg/mL) induced 15.6, 25.7, and 38.8 percent apoptosis levels respectively. The treatment also inhibited cellular growth by 35.1, 59.7, and 85.3 percent respectively.
  • These effects were attributed to the increased expression of caspase-3, -8. And -9, all of which play an important role in apoptosis. Furthermore, ITEE weakened the expression of HIAP-1 and HIAP-2 which are natural caspase inhibitors.
  • ITEE enhanced the expression of the pro-apoptotic protein Bax and anti-apoptotic Bcl-2, and decrease the expression of anti-apoptotic Bcl-xL. The boost to Bax helped neutralize the effects of anti-apoptotic proteins in a dose-dependent manner. ITEE also enhanced master tumor suppressor p53, known for promoting the effects of Bax, and another pro-apoptotic protein, p21.
  • Treatment with ITEE promoted the expression of E2F1, a protein that induces specific apoptosis in cancer cells. It also stimulates and stabilizes p53. Moreover, the increase in E2F1 triggered apoptosis by p73.
  • Analysis showed the presence of flavones, polyphenols, caffeine, vitamin C, and various amino acids, all of which have anti-cancer and cell-protective effects, in insect tea.

Their findings led the researchers to conclude that insect tea does induce apoptosis by enhancing the expression of pro-apoptotic proteins and factors. They recommended an in vivo study and further research on the effects of the tea on cancer cells.

Find the full text of the study at this link.

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Journal Reference:

Suo H, Sun P, Wang C, Peng D, Zhao X. APOPTOTIC EFFECTS OF INSECT TEA IN HEPG2 HUMAN HEPATOMA CELLS. CyTA – Journal of Food. 2015;14(2):169–175. DOI: 10.1080/19476337.2015.1076521

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