Clove extract inhibits tumor growth and promotes cell cycle arrest and apoptosis

Oncol Res. 2014;21(5):247-59. doi: 10.3727/096504014X13946388748910.


Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum) have been used as a traditional Chinese medicinal herb for thousands of years. Cloves possess antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties, but their potential anticancer activity remains unknown. In this study, we investigated the in vitro and in vivo antitumor effects and biological mechanisms of ethyl acetate extract of cloves (EAEC) and the potential bioactive components responsible for its antitumor activity. The effects of EAEC on cell growth, cell cycle distribution, and apoptosis were investigated using human cancer cell lines. The molecular changes associated with the effects of EAEC were analyzed by Western blot and (qRT)-PCR analysis. The in vivo effect of EAEC and its bioactive component was investigated using the HT-29 tumor xenograft model. We identified oleanolic acid (OA) as one of the components of EAEC responsible for its antitumor activity. Both EAEC and OA display cytotoxicity against several human cancer cell lines. Interestingly, EAEC was superior to OA and the chemotherapeutic agent 5-fluorouracil at suppressing growth of colon tumor xenografts. EAEC promoted G0/G1 cell cycle arrest and induced apoptosis in a dose-dependent manner. Treatment with EAEC and OA selectively increased protein expression of p21(WAF1/Cip1) and γ-H2AX and downregulated expression of cell cycle-regulated proteins. Moreover, many of these changes were at the mRNA level, suggesting transcriptional regulation by EAEC treatment. Our results demonstrate that clove extract may represent a novel therapeutic herb for the treatment of colorectal cancer, and OA appears to be one of the bioactive components.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Cycle Checkpoints / drug effects
  • Cell Growth Processes / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • HT29 Cells
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Random Allocation
  • Syzygium / chemistry*
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Plant Extracts