Korean Red Ginseng protects endothelial cells from serum-deprived apoptosis by regulating BcL-2 family protein dynamics and caspase S-nitrosylation

Young Mi Kim, Jung Hwan Kim, Hyuk Min Kwon, Dong Heon Lee, Moo Ho Won, Young Guen Kwon, Young Myeong Kim

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15 Citations (Scopus)


Korean Red Ginseng extract (KRGE) is a traditional herbal medicine utilized to prevent endothelium dysfunction in the cardiovascular system; however, its underlying mechanism has not been clearly elucidated. We here examined the pharmacological effect and molecular mechanism of KRGE on apoptosis of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) in a serum-deprived apoptosis model. KRGE protected HUVECs from serum-deprived apoptosis by inhibiting mitochondrial cytochrome c release and caspase-9/-3 activation. This protective effect was significantly higher than that of American ginseng extract. KRGE treatment increased antiapoptotic Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL protein expression and Akt-dependent Bad phosphorylation. Moreover, KRGE prevented serum deprivation-induced subcellular redistribution of these proteins between the mitochondrion and the cytosol, resulting in suppression of mitochondrial cytochrome c release. In addition, KRGE increased nitric oxide (NO) production via Akt-dependent activation of endothelial NO synthase (eNOS), as well as inhibited caspase-9/-3 activities. These increases were reversed by co-treatment of cells with inhibitors of eNOS and phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) and pre-incubation of cell lysates in dithiothreitol, indicating KRGE induces NO-mediated caspase modification. Indeed, KRGE inhibited caspase-3 activity via S-nitrosylation. These findings suggest that KRGE prevents serum deprivation-induced HUVEC apoptosis via increased Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL protein expression, PI3K/Akt-dependent Bad phosphorylation, and eNOS/NO-mediated S-nitrosylation of caspases. The cytoprotective property of KRGE may be valuable for developing new pharmaceutical means that limit endothelial cell death induced during the pathogenesis of vascular diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-424
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Ginseng Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Oct

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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