Thymoquinone Induces Downregulation of BCR-ABL/JAK/STAT Pathway and Apoptosis in K562 Leukemia Cells

Document Type : Research Articles


1 School of Biomedicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA), Terengganu 21300, Malaysia.

2 Department of Haematology, School of Medical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Kubang Kerian, Kelantan 16150, Malaysia.

3 Anti-Doping Lab Qatar, Doha, Qatar.


Objective: BCR ABL oncogene encodes the BCR-ABL chimeric protein, which is a constitutively activated non-receptor tyrosine kinase. The BCR-ABL oncoprotein is a key molecular basis for the pathogenesis of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) via activation of several downstream signaling pathways including JAK/STAT pathway. Development of leukemia involves constitutive activation of signaling molecules including, JAK2, STAT3, STAT5A and STAT5B. Thymoquinone (TQ) is a bioactive constituent of Nigella sativa that has shown anticancer properties in various cancers. The present study aimed to evaluate the effect of TQ on the expression of BCR ABL, JAK2, STAT3, STAT5A and STAT5B genes and their consequences on the cell proliferation and apoptosis in K562 CML cells. Methods: BCR-ABL positive K562 CML cells were treated with TQ. Cytotoxicity was determined by Trypan blue exclusion assay. Apoptosis assay was performed by annexin V-FITC/PI staining assay and analyzed by flow cytometry. Transcription levels of BCR ABL, JAK2, STAT3, STAT5A and STAT5B genes were evaluated by reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR). Protein levels of JAK2 and STAT5 were determined by Jess Assay analysis. Results: TQ markedly decreased the cell proliferation and induced apoptosis in K562 cells (P < 0.001) in a concentration dependent manner. TQ caused a significant decrease in the transcriptional levels of BCR ABL, JAK2, STAT3, STAT5A and STAT5B genes (P < 0.001). TQ induced a significant decrease in JAK2 and STAT5 protein levels (P < 0.001). Conclusion: our results indicated that TQ inhibited cell growth of K562 cells via downregulation of BCR ABL/ JAK2/STAT3 and STAT5 signaling and reducing JAK2 and STAT5 protein levels.


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