Saponins extracted from by-product of Asparagus officinalis L. suppress tumour cell migration and invasion through targeting Rho GTPase signalling pathway

J Sci Food Agric. 2013 Apr;93(6):1492-8. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.5922. Epub 2013 Feb 28.


Background: The inedible bottom part (~30-40%) of asparagus (Asparagus officinalis L.) spears is usually discarded as waste. However, since this by-product has been reported to be rich in many bioactive phytochemicals, it might be utilisable as a supplement in foods or natural drugs for its therapeutic effects. In this study it was identifed that saponins from old stems of asparagus (SSA) exerted potential inhibitory activity on tumour growth and metastasis.

Results: SSA suppressed cell viability of breast, colon and pancreatic cancers in a concentration-dependent manner, with half-maximum inhibitory concentrations ranging from 809.42 to 1829.96 µg mL(-1). However, SSA was more functional in blocking cell migration and invasion as compared with its cytotoxic effect, with an effective inhibitory concentration of 400 µg mL(-1). A mechanistic study showed that SSA markedly increased the activities of Cdc42 and Rac1 and decreased the activity of RhoA in cancer cells.

Conclusion: SSA inhibits tumour cell motility through modulating the Rho GTPase signalling pathway, suggesting a promising use of SSA as a supplement in healthcare foods and natural drugs for cancer prevention and treatment.

Keywords: Asparagus officinalis L; Rho GTPase; cancer; saponin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / isolation & purification
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use
  • Asparagus Plant / chemistry*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Plant Stems / chemistry
  • Saponins / isolation & purification
  • Saponins / pharmacology
  • Saponins / therapeutic use*
  • Signal Transduction
  • cdc42 GTP-Binding Protein / metabolism
  • rac1 GTP-Binding Protein / metabolism
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • rhoA GTP-Binding Protein / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Plant Extracts
  • RAC1 protein, human
  • Saponins
  • RHOA protein, human
  • cdc42 GTP-Binding Protein
  • rac1 GTP-Binding Protein
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins
  • rhoA GTP-Binding Protein