Ethanolic extract of propolis (EEP) enhances the apoptosis- inducing potential of TRAIL in cancer cells

Molecules. 2009 Feb 13;14(2):738-54. doi: 10.3390/molecules.


Ethanolic extract of propolis (EEP) is one of the richest sources of phenolic acids and flavonoids. EEP and its phenolic compounds have been known for various biological activities including immunopotentiation, chemopreventive and antitumor effects. Tumor necrosis factor related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL) is a naturally occurring anticancer agent that preferentially induces apoptosis in cancer cells and is not toxic toward normal cells. We examined the cytotoxic and apoptotic effect of EEP and phenolic compounds identified in propolis in combination with TRAIL on HeLa cancer cells. HeLa cells were resistant to TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Our study demonstrated that EEP and its components significantly sensitize to TRAIL induced death in cancer cells. The percentage of the apoptotic cell after exposure to 50 microg/mL EEP and 100 ng/mL TRAIL increased to 71.10 +/- 1.16%. The strongest cytotoxic effect in combination with TRAIL on HeLa cells exhibited apigenin and CAPE at the concentration of 50 microM (58.87 +/- 0.75% and 49.59 +/- 0.39%, respectively). In this report, we show for the first time that EEP markedly augmented TRAIL mediated apoptosis in cancer cells and confirmed the importance of propolis in chemoprevention of malignant tumors.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Infective Agents / metabolism*
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Ethanol / chemistry
  • Flavonoids / chemistry
  • Flavonoids / metabolism
  • HeLa Cells*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure
  • Phenols* / chemistry
  • Phenols* / metabolism
  • Propolis / chemistry
  • Propolis / metabolism*
  • Receptors, TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / metabolism
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / metabolism*


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Flavonoids
  • Phenols
  • Receptors, TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • Ethanol
  • Propolis