Treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) requires new drugs as result of a rise in new cases and high disease relapse. Plant lectins with the ability to bind carbohydrates on the cell surface have the potential to treat cancer. Urtica dioica L. agglutinin (UDA) is a low weight lectin with anti-benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) impact. Here, we examine the impact of UDA on HL-60 cell line. Cytotoxicity and cytostatic effects were assessed in HL-60 cells treated with UDA and vincristine (positive control). The effects of the lectin on cell cycle phases and cell death mechanism were surveyed by propidium iodide (PI) staining and annexin V/PI, respectively. The activation status of the apoptosis pathway was determined by western blotting. Finally, the expression levels of 84 genes were examined by the Human cancer drug target gene PCR array kit. The results indicated that the increase in UDA concentration inhibited the proliferation of HL-60 cells as well as apoptosis induction. Cell cycle analysis showed that the number of sub G1 cells increased essentially. Experimental observations showed that UDA can induce cell apoptosis through a caspase 9-dependent pathway. The expression changes of 21 genes confirmed the apoptotic events in HL-60 cells treated with UDA. In this, we have presented the first investigation on the cytotoxic and apoptotic effects of a lectin isolated from rhizomes and roots of Urtica dioica L. on human AML cells. Generally, the results suggest that UDA may have therapeutic value for leukemia and would be studied further as a new drug for AML later on.
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