Anticancer activity of ceratotheca triloba
Plants have provided a source of medicine from the beginning of human history and are the core of modern medicine. Moreover, plant based drug discovery has led to the development of various anticancer drugs (such as vincristine, vinblastine, etoposide, paclitaxel, camptothecin, topotecan and irinotecan). The use of botanical, phytochemical, biological and molecular techniques have facilitated the discovery of anthraquinones from Ceratotheca triloba that can inhibit the human topoisomerase II enzyme (target for anticancer drugs) and kill cancer cells. However, the C. triloba plant has not been extensively studied for its anticancer activity. Therefore, the aim of this study was to further investigate the anticancer activity of C. triloba and determine the classes of compounds that contributed towards its activity. In this study the leaf and root extracts were prepared by using hexane, DCM, hexane: DCM (1:1), methanol and/or water. These extracts were examined for their growth inhibitory potential on three cancer cell lines (A375 [melanoma], MDA-MB-231[breast] and WHCO1 [esophageal]) by using the MTT assay. Then, different mobile phases were prepared for optimizing the separation of the compounds of the active extract by TLC. Column chromatography was performed with the active extract by using five mobile phases (hexane : DCM [60 : 40, 40 : 60], DCM, DCM : ethyl acetate [90 : 10, 70 : 30, 60 : 40, 50 : 50, 50 : 60, 30: 60, 20 : 80], ethyl acetate and ethyl acetate: methanol [80 : 20, 70 : 30, 50 : 50]). The fractions collected from the column were examined for their growth inhibitory potential on two melanoma cell lines (A375 and UACC-62). The IC50 and TGI (total growth inhibition) values of the active fractions were determined. Also, the apoptosis inducing effects of the active fractions and standards (camptothecin and doxorubicin) were determined by using flow cytometer based assays (FITC annexin assay, PE active caspase 3 assay and BD MitoScreen assay). Subsequently, the chemical structures of the compounds that contributed towards the activity of these fractions were obtained by EI-LC-MS analysis. The results demonstrated that the hexane root extract exhibited the best percentage of growth inhibition (%GI) on all three cancer cell lines. The separation of the compounds of the hexane root extract was optimized on TLC plates by using different ratios of hexane and DCM. Column chromatography allowed for fractionation of this extract. Purified compounds were not obtained due to co-elution. Further research would have to be conducted to obtain purified compounds. This may involve the use of mini-column chromatography and PTLC. Overall a total of ten combined fractions were collected from the column. Four of these fractions (F2, F4, F5 and F8) displayed a high %GI on the A375 and UACC-62 cell lines. Moreover, fraction F4 was the most active fraction as it had the lowest IC50 (0.70 µg.ml-1 [A375] and 0.39 µg.ml-1 [UACC-62]) and TGI (12.50 µg.ml-1[A375] and 25 µg.ml-1 [UACC-62]) values in comparison to the other fractions. All four fractions induced depolarization of the mitochondria membrane potential (ΔΨ), caspase 3 activation, early apoptosis (phospholipid phosphatidylserine exposure) and/or late apoptosis in the melanoma cells. The results also revealed that fraction F4 (25 µg.ml-1) induced depolarization of the ΔΨ in a higher percentage of A375 (78.11%) and UACC-62 (87.4%) cells than the other fractions and standards. This fraction also induced caspase 3 activation in a high percentage of A375 (90.56%) and UACC-62 (96.78%) cells. Therefore fraction F4 was also the most active fraction in terms of apoptosis activity. Based on our results and literature findings we can deduce that the active fractions induced the intrinsic or extrinsic (type II) apoptosis pathway in the melanoma cells. Six classes of compounds were identified from the four active fractions. These were: benzothiophenones, benzopyranones, naphthoquinones, anthraquinones, androstanes and quinazolines. In conclusion, this is the first study that evaluated the growth inhibition potential of the leaf and root extracts of C. triloba on a panel of cancer cells. This research indicated that the hexane root extract displayed the best levels of cell growth inhibition. The active constituents of this extract were isolated into four fractions which elicited apoptosis inducing effects that promoted the extrinsic (type II) or intrinsic apoptosis pathway in the melanoma cells. Furthermore, fraction F4 contained the most active compounds from C. triloba as it had the lowest IC50 and TGI values (in comparison to the other fractions) and induced depolarization of the ΔΨ in the highest percentage of melanoma cells. It was confirmed that six classes of compounds were accountable for the anticancer activity of these fractions. Thus, the C. triloba plant is a rich source of anticancer compounds.