Amino Acids

, Volume 50, Issue 12, pp 1749–1758 | Cite as

Taurine exhibits an apoptosis-inducing effect on human nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells through PTEN/Akt pathways in vitro

  • Feng He
  • Ning Ma
  • Kaoru Midorikawa
  • Yusuke Hiraku
  • Shinji Oikawa
  • Zhe Zhang
  • Guangwu Huang
  • Kazuhiko TakeuchiEmail author
  • Mariko MurataEmail author
Original Article


Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a distinctive type of head and neck malignancy with a high incidence in southern China. Previous studies have confirmed that taurine shows an anti-cancer effect on a variety of human tumors by inhibiting cell proliferation and inducing apoptosis. However, the underlying molecular mechanism of its anti-cancer effect on NPC is not well understood. To clarify these anti-cancer mechanisms, we performed cell viability and colony formation assays. Apoptotic cells were quantified by flow cytometry. The expression levels of apoptosis-related proteins were evaluated by Western blot. The results showed that taurine markedly inhibited cell proliferation in NPC cells, but only slightly in an immortalized normal nasopharyngeal cell line. Taurine suppressed colony formation and induced apoptosis of NPC cell lines in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, taurine increased the active form of caspase-9/3 in a dose-dependent manner. Taurine down-regulated the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-xL and up-regulated the pro-apoptotic protein Bax and GRP78, a major endoplasmic reticulum (ER) chaperone. These results suggest the involvement of mitochondrial and ER stress signaling in apoptosis. In addition, taurine increased the levels of PTEN (phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome 10) and p53, and reduced phosphorylated Akt (protein kinase B). In conclusion, taurine may inhibit cell proliferation and induce apoptosis in NPC through PTEN activation with concomitant Akt inactivation.


Taurine NPC Apoptosis PTEN Akt 



This work was supported in part by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Numbers JP16H05255 (MM). We also thank the Takeda Science Foundation.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

All authors listed have contributed to the conception, design, gathering, analysis, or interpretation of data and have contributed to the writing and intellectual content of the article. All authors gave informed consent to the submission of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 17 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (PPTX 4927 kb)
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Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 15 kb)
726_2018_2651_MOESM4_ESM.docx (17 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (DOCX 16 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Feng He
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • Ning Ma
    • 3
  • Kaoru Midorikawa
    • 1
  • Yusuke Hiraku
    • 1
  • Shinji Oikawa
    • 1
  • Zhe Zhang
    • 4
  • Guangwu Huang
    • 4
  • Kazuhiko Takeuchi
    • 2
    Email author
  • Mariko Murata
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Environmental and Molecular MedicineMie University Graduate School of MedicineTsuJapan
  2. 2.Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck SurgeryMie University Graduate School of MedicineTsuJapan
  3. 3.Graduate School of Health ScienceSuzuka University of Medical ScienceSuzukaJapan
  4. 4.Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck SurgeryFirst Affiliated Hospital of Guangxi Medical UniversityNanning, GuangxiChina

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