Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Cancer and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The prosurvival role of autophagy in Resveratrol-induced cytotoxicity in human U251 glioma cells

Jun Li1, Zhenghong Qin12 and Zhongqin Liang12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pharmacology, Soochow University School of Medicine, Suzhou, PR China

2 Laboratory of Aging and Nervous Diseases Soochow University School of Medicine, Suzhou, PR China

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Cancer 2009, 9:215  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-9-215

Published: 30 June 2009



Previous study reported that resveratrol has anti-tumor activity. In this study, we investigated the involvement of autophagy in the resveratrol-induced apoptotic death of human U251 glioma cells.


The growth inhibition of U251 cells induced by resveratrol was assessed with methyl thiazolyl tetrazolium (MTT). The activation of autophagy and proapoptotic effect were characterized by monodansylcadaverine labeling and Hoechst stain, respectively. Mitochondrialtransmembrane potential (ΔΨm) was measured as a function of drug treatment using 5,5',6,6'-tetrachloro-1,1',3,3'-tetraethylbenzimidazolylcarbocyanine iodide (JC-1). The role of autophagy and apoptosis in the resveratrol-induced death of U251 cells was assessed using autophagic and caspase inhibitors. Immunofluorescence, flow cytometry, and Western blot analysis were used to study the apoptotic and autophagic mechanisms.


Methyl thiazolyl tetrazolium (MTT) assays indicated that resveratrol decreased the viability of U251 cells in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Flow cytometry analysis indicated that resveratrol increased cell population at sub-G1 phase, an index of apoptosis. Furthermore, resveratrol-induced cell death was associated with a collapse of the mitochondrial membrane potential. The pan-caspase inhibitor Z-VAD-fmk suppressed resveratrol-induced U251 cell death. Resveratrol stimulated autophagy was evidenced by punctuate monodansylcadaverine(MDC) staining and microtubule-associated protein light chain 3 (LC3) immunoreactivty. Resveratrol also increased protein levels of beclin 1 and membrane form LC3 (LC3-II). Autophagy inhibitors 3-methylademine (3-MA) and bafilomycin A1 sensitized the cytotoxicity of resveratrol.


Together, these findings indicate that resveratrol induces autophagy in human U251 glioma cells and autophagy suppressed resveratrol-induced apoptosis. This study thus suggests that autophagy inhibitors can increase the cytotoxicity of resveratrol to glioma cells.