Context Asiatic acid, a triterpenoid compound extracted from the tropical medicinal plant Centella asiatica (Family: Apiaceae), has exhibited various biological activities. Objective This study was performed to investigate the cytotoxic effects of asiatic acid on human ovarian cancer cells. Materials and methods SKOV3 and OVCAR-3 ovarian cancer cells were exposed to different concentrations of asiatic acid (10-100 μg/mL) for 72 or 48 h. Cell viability, colony formation, cell cycle distribution, apoptotic response were examined. Involvement of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway was tested. Results At the concentration of 40 μg/mL, asiatic acid caused about 50% reduction in the viability of ovarian cancer cells, but had little effect on the viability of normal human ovarian epithelial cells. Asiatic acid at 10 μg/mL reduced colony formation of ovarian cancer cells by 25-30%. Asiatic acid-treated cells showed a cell cycle arrest at the G0/G1 phase and 7- to 10-fold increase in apoptosis. The phosphorylation levels of PI3K, Akt and mTOR were remarkably lower in asiatic acid-treated cells. Overexpression of constitutively active Akt partially reversed the cytotoxic effects of asiatic acid, as evidenced by increased cell viability and colony formation. Furthermore, knockdown of Akt mimicked the growth-suppressive activity of asiatic acid. Discussion and conclusion These results provide first the evidence for the anticancer potential of asiatic acid in ovarian cancer cells, partially via inactivation of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway. Asiatic acid may represent a potential therapeutic agent for ovarian cancer.
Keywords: Apoptosis; cell cycle arrest; growth; signalling pathway.