Anti-carcinogenic activity of Centella asiatica and Elytropappus rhinocerotis on a human colon cancer cell line
Recently our understanding of cancer has advanced in the realization that apoptosis and the genes that control it have a profound effect on the malignant phenotype. It is now clear that some oncogenic mutations disrupt apoptosis, leading to tumor initiation, progression or metastasis. Conversely, compelling evidence indicates that other oncogenic changes promote apoptosis, thereby producing selective pressure to override apoptosis during multistage carcinogenesis. Finally, it is now well documented that most cytotoxic anti-cancer agents induce apoptosis, raising the intriguing possibility that defects in apoptotic programs contribute to treatment failure. Because the same mutations that suppress apoptosis during tumor development also reduce treatment sensitivity, apoptosis provides a conceptual framework to link cancer genetics with cancer therapy. An intense research effort is uncovering the underlying mechanisms of apoptosis, such that, in the next decade, one envisions that this information will produce new strategies to exploit apoptosis for therapeutic benefit. Plants have a long history in cancer treatment. More than 3000 species have been known for their anti-cancer potential. Over 60% of currently used anti-cancer agents are derived in one way or another from higher plants. Indeed, compounds derived from natural sources, including plants, have played, and continue to play, a dominant role in the discovery of leads for the development of conventional drugs for the treatment of most human diseases especially cancer. Thus the aim of this study was to investigate if Centella asiatica and Elytropappus rhinocerotis possess anti-cancer potential and determine the effect on the modulation of apoptosis. In South Africa C. asiatica is known anecdotally to treat various forms of cancers and E. rhinocerotis is known to treat colic and diarrhoea. The anti-cancer activity of C. asiatica has been studied in some parts India but E. rhinocerotis has not been investigated. This study was conducted using polarity guided fractionation (aqueous, ethanolic, methanolic and hexane), thereafter these extracts were tested for their toxicity on a colon cancer cell line (CaCO-2) and on normal cells vi (PBMC). Subsequently, the most active extract was used to isolate the active fraction. The fraction that displayed toxicity on the CaCO-2 cells were further investigated for their ability to induce apoptosis by observing the morphological effects and DNA changes using acridine orange-ethidium bromide staining. Apoptosis was confirmed using Annexin V- PI staining. Nuclear effects were studied by DNA fragmentation and by agarose gel electrophoresis. Nuclear fragmentation was studied by flow cytometry using bromodeoxyuridine (BrDU). Pro-apoptotic changes were determined with Caspase III enzyme levels using flow cytometry. The results were compared to the effect of a known anti-carinogen - Taxol. The anti-oxidant activity was also evaluated for the different extracts. The ethanolic extracts of both C. asiatica and E. rhinocerotis showed more than 100% radical scavenging activity. The methanolic extract (125 μg/ml -500 μg/ml) showed cytotoxicity on the CaCO-2 cells and a proliferative effect on the PBMC. Apoptosis was confirmed in the methanolic extract for both plants and was therefore used to carry forth this study. This included early apoptotic changes observed by the morphological study i.e., membrane blebbing, nuclear condensation and the presence of apoptotic bodies, in both C. asiatica and E. rhinocerotis fractions demonstrated more non-viable apoptotic cells than the methanolic extracts. Late changes of apoptosis were also found as indicated by DNA laddering and a positive outcome with BrDU. Both the active fractions from C. asiatica and E. rhinocerotis showed more DNA laddering and active caspase III than the methanolic extract. These features indicate that C. asiatica and E. rhinocerotis cause apoptotic death of colon cancer cells CaC0-2. In conclusion, there was a significant increase in apoptosis of CaCO-2 cells with little alteration of PBMC in the presence of the methanolic extract of C. asiatica and E. rhinocerotis. The semipure fractions resulted in changes related to late apoptosis. The results suggest that C. asiatica and E. rhinocerotis induces apoptosis in CaCO-2 cells which is an important step in elucidating the underlying molecular mechanism for anti-tumour activity.