Emodin, a major component of Polygonum multiflorum (PM), has been reported to exert both protective and toxic effects in several cell types. However, the effects and underlying mechanisms of action of emodin in hepatic cells are still obscure.
The present study used the normal human liver cell line L02 to investigate the effects and mechanisms of emodin in hepatic cells. After treatment with emodin, L02 cells were examined for viability, apoptosis and autophagy with the Cell Counting Kit-8 (CCK-8), annexin V/PerCP staining and GFP-LC3 plasmid transfection. The expression of proteins including cleaved caspase-3, LC3B-I/II, p-PI3K, PI3K, p-AKT, AKT, p-mTOR, mTOR and actin was examined by using Western blot.
Emodin significantly inhibited the viability of and induced apoptosis in L02 cells in a dose- and time-dependent manner. In addition, emodin increased the number of GFP-LC3 puncta in L02 cells and upregulated the expression of LC3B-II compared to those in control cells. Furthermore, emodin significantly decreased the expression of p-PI3K, p-AKT and p-mTOR in a dose-dependent manner compared to that in control cells without altering the expression of PI3K, AKT and mTOR. Notably, cotreatment with emodin and 3-methyladenine (3-MA) or rapamycin significantly increased and decreased the apoptosis rate of L02 cells, respectively, compared to that of cells treated with emodin alone.