Cytotoxic effect of freeze-dried extract of Ecballium elaterium fruit on gastric adenocarcinoma (AGS) and esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (KYSE30) cell lines

J Gastrointest Cancer. 2012 Dec;43(4):579-83. doi: 10.1007/s12029-012-9383-4.


Purpose: Ecballium elaterium (L.) A. Rich (Cucurbitaceae), also known as the "squirting cucumber," is a wild medicinal plant found abundantly in Moghan, Ardabil province, Iran. This study was undertaken to examine possible cytotoxic effect of freeze-dried aqueous extract of E. elaterium fruit on cell lines of gastric and esophageal origin namely called AGS (human gastric carcinoma) and KYSE30 (human esophageal squamous cell carcinoma).

Methods: The aqueous extract of the fruits of E. elaterium was prepared and freeze-dried. AGS and KYSE30 cancer cell lines were treated by the extract and incubated for 24, 48, and 72 h. Cytotoxicity was examined by MTT assay. Ethidium bromide/acridine orange (EB/AO) staining was used for apoptotic cell detection. A DAPI staining method was used to analyze cell cycle by flow cytometry.

Results: The IC(50) values were 2.5, 0.7, and 0.7 μg/ml for AGS cell line after 24, 48, and 72 h, respectively. IC(50) values for KYSE30 cell line were 500, 150, and 125 μg/ml after 24, 48, and 72 h, respectively. The EB/AO staining showed an increase in apoptotic cells. Cell cycle analysis showed a significant increase in cell density at G2/M phase.

Conclusions: The results of the current study showed that the freeze-dried aqueous extract of E. elaterium fruit has a cytotoxic effect on gastric and esophageal cancer cell lines by means of apoptosis. The gastric cancer cells (AGS) showed a remarkably higher sensitivity. It seems that several compounds are possibly responsible for the cytotoxic effect of the extract.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cucumis sativus / chemistry*
  • Cytotoxins / pharmacology
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Stomach Neoplasms / metabolism*


  • Cytotoxins
  • Plant Extracts