Identification of unprecedented anticancer properties of high molecular weight biomacromolecular complex containing bovine lactoferrin (HMW-bLf)

PLoS One. 2014 Sep 15;9(9):e106568. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106568. eCollection 2014.


With the successful clinical trials, multifunctional glycoprotein bovine lactoferrin is gaining attention as a safe nutraceutical and biologic drug targeting cancer, chronic-inflammatory, viral and microbial diseases. Interestingly, recent findings that human lactoferrin oligomerizes under simulated physiological conditions signify the possible role of oligomerization in the multifunctional activities of lactoferrin molecule during infections and in disease targeting signaling pathways. Here we report the purification and physicochemical characterization of high molecular weight biomacromolecular complex containing bovine lactoferrin (≥250 kDa), from bovine colostrum, a naturally enriched source of lactoferrin. It showed structural similarities to native monomeric iron free (Apo) lactoferrin (∼78-80 kDa), retained anti-bovine lactoferrin antibody specific binding and displayed potential receptor binding properties when tested for cellular internalization. It further displayed higher thermal stability and better resistance to gut enzyme digestion than native bLf monomer. High molecular weight bovine lactoferrin was functionally bioactive and inhibited significantly the cell proliferation (p<0.01) of human breast and colon carcinoma derived cells. It induced significantly higher cancer cell death (apoptosis) and cytotoxicity in a dose-dependent manner in cancer cells than the normal intestinal cells. Upon cellular internalization, it led to the up-regulation of caspase-3 expression and degradation of actin. In order to identify the cutting edge future potential of this bio-macromolecule in medicine over the monomer, its in-depth structural and functional properties need to be investigated further.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Cattle
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Colonic Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Humans
  • Lactoferrin / chemistry
  • Lactoferrin / pharmacology*
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects


  • Actins
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Lactoferrin
  • Caspase 3

Grant support

The work was funded by Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF, BF 030016). The financial support for Postgraduate Fellowships from Deakin University and Ministry of Higher Education of Libya and BTRC is gratefully acknowledged. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.