Oral cancer remains the leading cause of death worldwide. Rhein is a natural compound extracted from the traditional Chinese herbal medicine rhubarb, which has demonstrated therapeutic effects in various cancers. However, the specific effects of rhein on oral cancer are still unclear. This study aimed to investigate the potential anticancer activity and underlying mechanisms of rhein in oral cancer cells. The antigrowth effect of rhein in oral cancer cells was estimated by cell proliferation, soft agar colony formation, migration, and invasion assay. The cell cycle and apoptosis were detected by flow cytometry. The underlying mechanism of rhein in oral cancer cells was explored by immunoblotting. The in vivo anticancer effect was evaluated by oral cancer xenografts. Rhein significantly inhibited oral cancer cell growth by inducing apoptosis and S-phase cell cycle arrest. Rhein inhibited oral cancer cell migration and invasion through the regulation of epithelial–mesenchymal transition-related proteins. Rhein induced reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulation in oral cancer cells to inhibit the AKT/mTOR signaling pathway. Rhein exerted anticancer activity in vitro and in vivo by inducing oral cancer cell apoptosis and ROS via the AKT/mTOR signaling pathway in oral cancer. Rhein is a potential therapeutic drug for oral cancer treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8507
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 2023


  • apoptosis
  • autophagy
  • mTOR
  • oral cancer
  • rhein


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