PROPOFOL: a new combat for endometriosis?

PROPOFOL: a new combat for endometriosis?

Propofol-induced apoptosis may be the key to inhibit endometriosis.

Key Points


  • Propofol is commonly used in anesthesia due to its rapid anesthetic effect and short-term recovery.
  • Recent studies confirmed the anti-cancer effect of propofol including repression of cell proliferation, adhesion, metastasis and induction of cell apoptosis. 


  • As the behavior of endometriosis cells show some similarity to malignant cells in terms of invasion, metastasis and spread, induction of spontaneous apoptosis and to inhibit their proliferation by Propofol could be a hope for endometriosis treatment.

What's done here:

  • Endometriosis cell lines were incubated and treated with various concentrations of Propofol at different time intervals changing from 24 to72 hours.
  • Cell viability an apoptosis were examined and quantified directly by MTT assay and flow cytometric analysis.
  • The expression levels of the genes and proteins that play role in cell proliferation and apoptosis were also examined.

Key Results:

  • Propofol inhibited endometriosis cell proliferation in a dose-and time-dependent manner.
  • Endometriosis cells underwent apoptosis after 24h Propofol treatment, dose-dependently.
  • The levels of apoptosis-related genes and proteins such as FOXO1, FOXO3, Bim, procaspase-3, and active-caspase-3, were found to be increased by western blot and RT-qPCR, dose-dependently.
  • mRNA and protein expression levels of p53 and p21, the molecules that have critical roles in cell growth regulation and previously shown to be downregulated in endometriosis, were significantly increased after Propofol treatment when compared to the control group.

Lay Summary

Feng et al, from the Department of  Gynecology Weifang Medical University Hospital, Shandong, China, recently published their prospective experimental research in the journal Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine.

Propofol, a rapid and short-term anesthetic substance, recently has been shown to prevent cancer through inhibiting tumor cell proliferation directly or indirectly, by facilitating apoptosis. The researchers postulate that Propofol can have similar effects on endometriosis cells due to their behavior similar to tumor cells.

To evaluate the probable role of Propofol on inhibiting the endometriotic cell proliferation and provoking cell apoptosis, researchers planned to incubate endometriosis cell lines with different concentration of propofol at different time intervals and examined the cell proliferation and apoptosis-related protein expression by MTT assay, flow cytometric analyses, RT-qPCR,  and western blot analyses.

The statistical results disclosed that the proliferation of endometriosis cell lines was significantly inhibited by propofol in a dose and time-dependent manner. Furthermore, after 24 hours of Propofol treatment, the endometriosis cell lines underwent apoptosis, and also expressed increased levels of apoptosis-associated genes and proteins such as FOXO1, FOXO3, and Bim, again dose and time-dependently. 

These alterations were statistically significant and confirmed the underlying mechanism of Propofol-inhibition of cell proliferation and endometriotic cell apoptosis.

Authors concluded that this study is the first in the literature to reveal the hope for the protective role of Propofol in endometriosis by inhibiting cell proliferation and inducing cell apoptosis to the best of their knowledge.

Research Source:

EM cell lines CRL-7566 cells MTT assay western blot test RT-qPCR analyses p53 p21 FOXO1 FOXO3 pro-caspace-3 active caspase-3 propofol apoptosis cell proliferation endometriosis


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