Growth inhibition and apoptotic effect of alpha-eleostearic acid on human breast cancer cells

J Nat Med. 2012 Jan;66(1):77-84. doi: 10.1007/s11418-011-0556-4. Epub 2011 Jun 21.


Alpha-eleostearic acid (α-ESA) is a natural and biologically active compound which possesses potent antioxidant and anti-tumor activity. The purpose of this study was to confirm the anticancer activity of α-ESA against human breast cancer cells and to further elucidate its mechanism of activity. Human breast cancer cells and normal liver cells were used for in-vitro tests of the anticancer activity of α-ESA, including cytotoxicity, colony formation inhibition, EdU incorporation, AO/EB staining of apoptotic cells, cell cycle distribution through flow cytometry, and PPARγ, p21, Bax, p53, and caspase-3 mRNA expressions through RT-PCR. After α-ESA treatment, the proliferation, colony formation, and EdU labeling indices of cancer cells decreased (p < 0.05), while the AO/EB-stained apoptotic cells increased (p < 0.05). By FCM analysis, the apoptotic indices increased (p < 0.01), and the cell population decreased in S phase (p < 0.01) and increased in G(2)/M phase (p < 0.05) in α-ESA treated cancer cells. RT-RCR showed that α-ESA significantly increased the expression levels of PPARγ, p21, Bax, p53, and caspase-3 mRNA. The findings in these studies suggested that α-ESA exhibited a potential cytotoxicity and apoptosis induction effect on human breast cancer cells, with little effect on normal cells at certain concentrations. The mechanism for such effects might be associated with the inhibition of DNA synthesis, induction of apoptosis, and cell cycle arrest of cancer cells through up-regulation of PPARγ, p21, Bax, p53, and caspase-3 expressions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / genetics
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / genetics
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linolenic Acids / chemistry
  • Linolenic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Spectrophotometry, Ultraviolet
  • Time Factors
  • Tumor Stem Cell Assay


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Linolenic Acids
  • eleostearic acid