Gambogic Acid Is a Tissue-Specific Proteasome Inhibitor In Vitro and In Vivo

Xiaofen Li, Shouting Liu, Hongbiao Huang, Ningning Liu, Chong Zhao, Siyan Liao, Changshan Yang, Yurong Liu, Canguo Zhao, Shujue Li, Xiaoyu Lu, Chunjiao Liu, Lixia Guan, Kai Zhao, Xiaoqing Shi, Wenbin Song, Ping Zhou, Xiaoxian Dong, Haiping Guo, Guanmei WenChange Zhang, Lili Jiang, Ningfang Ma, Bing Li, Shunqing Wang, Huo Tan, Xuejun Wang, Q. Ping Dou, Jinbao Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Gambogic acid (GA) is a natural compound derived from Chinese herbs that has been approved by the Chinese Food and Drug Administration for clinical trials in cancer patients; however, its molecular targets have not been thoroughly studied. Here, we report that GA inhibits tumor proteasome activity, with potency comparable to bortezomib but much less toxicity. First, GA acts as a prodrug and only gains proteasome-inhibitory function after being metabolized by intracellular CYP2E1. Second, GA-induced proteasome inhibition is a prerequisite for its cytotoxicity and anticancer effect without off-targets. Finally, because expression of the CYP2E1 gene is very high in tumor tissues but low in many normal tissues, GA could therefore produce tissue-specific proteasome inhibition and tumor-specific toxicity, with clinical significance for designing novel strategies for cancer treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-222
Number of pages12
JournalCell Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 31 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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