Dihydrotanshinone I inhibits the growth of hepatoma cells by direct inhibition of Src

Xiao Li Jiang, Bo Deng, Sui Hui Deng, Min Cai, Wen Jun Ding, Zhang Bin Tan, Rui Xue Chen, You Cai Xu, Hong Lin Xu, Shuang Wei Zhang, Shi Qing Zhang*, Bin Liu*, Jing Zhi Zhang *

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)



Liver cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related death worldwide. Dihydrotanshinone I (DHI) was shown to inhibit the growth of several types of cancer. However, research related to hepatoma treatment using DHI is limited. 


Here, we explored the inhibitory effect of DHI on the growth of hepatoma cells, and investigated the underlying molecular mechanisms. 


The proliferation of Hep3B, SMCC-7721 and SK-Hep1 hepatoma cells was evaluated using the MTS and Edu staining assay. Hepatoma cell death was analyzed with a LIVE/DEAD Cell Imaging Kit. The relative expression and phosphorylation of proto-oncogene tyrosine-protein kinase Src (Src) and signal transducer and activator of transcription-3 (STAT3) proteins in hepatoma cells, as well as the expression of other protein components, were measured by western blotting. The structural interaction of DHI with Src proteins was evaluated by molecular docking, molecular dynamics simulation, surface plasmon resonance imaging and Src kinase inhibition assay. Src overexpression was achieved by infection with an adenovirus vector encoding human Src. Subsequently, the effects of DHI on tumor growth inhibition were further validated using mouse xenograft models of hepatoma. 


In vitro studies showed that treatment with DHI inhibited the proliferation and promoted cell death of Hep3B, SMCC-7721 and SK-Hep1 hepatoma cells. We further identified and verified Src as a direct target of DHI by using molecular stimulation, surface plasmon resonance image and Src kinase inhibition assay. Treatment with DHI reduced the in vitro phosphorylation levels of Src and STAT3, a transcription factor regulated by Src. In the xenograft mouse models, DHI dose-dependently suppressed tumor growth and Src and STAT3 phosphorylation. Moreover, Src overexpression partly abrogated the inhibitory effects of DHI on the proliferation and cell death in hepatoma cells. 


Our results suggest that DHI inhibits the growth of hepatoma cells by direct inhibition of Src.

Original languageEnglish
Article number153705
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Complementary and alternative medicine

User-Defined Keywords

  • Dihydrotanshinone I
  • Liver cancer
  • Src
  • STAT3


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