Background: Daucus carota L.ssp.carota (wild carrot), an herb used in folk medicine worldwide, was recently demonstrated to exhibit anticancer activity. In this study we examined the anticancer effect of Daucus carota oil extract (DCOE) fractions on the human breast adenocarcinoma cell lines MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 and clarified the mechanism of action.
Methods and results: Using the WST assay, the pentane fraction (F1) and 1:1 pentane:diethyl ether fraction (F2) were shown to possess the highest cytotoxicity against both cell lines. Flow cytometric analysis revealed that both fractions induced the accumulation of cells in the sub-G1 phase, increase in apoptotic cell death and chromatin condensation. The increase in apoptosis in response to treatment was also apparent in the increase in BAX and the decrease in Bcl-2 levels as well as the proteolytic cleavage of both caspase-3 and PARP as revealed by Western blot. Furthermore, treatment of MDA-MB-231 cells with either fraction significantly reduced the level of phosphorylated Erk but did not show any effect on phosphorylated Akt. The combined treatment with a potent PI3K inhibitor (wortmannin) and F1 or F2 fraction had a synergistic inhibitory effect on cell survival which shows that these two drugs work on different pathways.
Conclusions: These results suggest that the pentane-based fractions of DCOE possess potential anti-cancer activity that is mainly mediated through the Erk pathway.