Silybum marianum (milk thistle) is a medicinal plant used for the treatment of various liver disorders. This study examined whether the main flavonolignans from S. marianum (i.e. silybin, silychristin, silydianin) and their 2,3-dehydro derivatives (i.e. 2,3-dehydrosilybin, 2,3-dehydrosilychristin, 2,3-dehydrosilydianin) activate the Nrf2 pathway, which regulates the expression of genes encoding many cytoprotective enzymes, including NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1). After 48 h of exposure, 2,3-dehydrosilydianin at concentrations of 25 μM and higher significantly elevated the activity of NQO1 in murine hepatoma Hepa1c1c7 cells. In contrast, other tested compounds at non-cytotoxic concentrations had a mild or negligible effect on the NQO1 activity. Using a luciferase reporter assay, 2,3-dehydrosilydianin was found to significantly activate transcription via the antioxidant response element in stably transfected human AREc32 reporter cells. Moreover, 2,3-dehydrosilydianin caused the accumulation of Nrf2 and significantly induced the expression of the Nqo1 gene at both the mRNA and protein levels in Hepa1c1c7 cells. We found that 2,3-dehydrosilydianin also increased to some extent the expression of other Nrf2 target genes, namely of the heme oxygenase-1 gene (Hmox1) and the glutamate-cysteine ligase modifier subunit gene (Gclm). We conclude that 2,3-dehydrosilydianin activates Nrf2 and induces Nrf2-mediated gene expression in Hepa1c1c7 cells.
- Silybum marianum