Biological activities of Portuguese propolis: protection against free radical-induced erythrocyte damage and inhibition of human renal cancer cell growth in vitro

Food Chem Toxicol. 2011 Jan;49(1):86-92. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2010.10.001. Epub 2010 Oct 8.


This study reports for the first time the biological properties of Portuguese propolis. The antioxidant potential of propolis samples from Bornes (Northeast) and Fundão (Centre) regions of Portugal was evaluated by their ability to inhibit the 2,2'-azobis(2-amidinopropane) dihydrochloride (AAPH)-induced oxidative hemolysis and lipid peroxidation in human erythrocytes. Bornes and Fundão propolis strongly protected the erythrocyte membrane from hemolysis (IC(50) of 6.3±0.7 and 10.4±2.7 μg/ml, respectively), in a time- and concentration-dependent manner. This effect was found to be significantly higher than that presented by ascorbic acid (IC(50) of 31.0±5.6 μg/ml). In addition, human erythrocytes treated with propolis extracts showed concentration-dependent decrease in levels of malondialdehyde, a breakdown product of lipid peroxidation. Propolis extracts were also assayed for their anticancer properties on human renal cell carcinoma (RCC). Primary cultures of normal and cancerous renal cells derived from RCC patients, in addition to A-498 cell line, were treated with propolis extracts (0-100 μg/ml). Cytotoxic and antiproliferative effects were determined by the 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay. Propolis extracts exhibited selective toxicity against malignant cells compared to normal cells. In vitro RCC growth was strongly inhibited by Bornes and Fundão propolis in a concentration-dependent manner. Our results indicate that Portuguese propolis constitutes an excellent source of effective natural antioxidant and chemopreventive agents.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / pathology*
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • Erythrocytes / drug effects*
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Free Radicals*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Propolis / pharmacology*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Free Radicals
  • Propolis