Polyphenolic Profile and Targeted Bioactivity of Methanolic Extracts from Mediterranean Ethnomedicinal Plants on Human Cancer Cell Lines

Molecules. 2016 Mar 23;21(4):395. doi: 10.3390/molecules21040395.


The methanol extracts of the aerial part of four ethnomedicinal plants of Mediterranean region, two non-seed vascular plants, Equisetum hyemale L. and Phyllitis scolopendrium (L.) Newman, and two Spermatophyta, Juniperus communis L. (J. communis) and Cotinus coggygria Scop. (C. coggygria), were screened against four human cells lines (A549, MCF7, TK6 and U937). Only the extracts of J. communis and C. coggygria showed marked cytotoxic effects, affecting both cell morphology and growth. A dose-dependent effect of these two extracts was also observed on the cell cycle distribution. Incubation of all the cell lines in a medium containing J. communis extract determined a remarkable accumulation of cells in the G2/M phase, whereas the C. coggygria extract induced a significant increase in the percentage of G1 cells. The novelty of our findings stands on the observation that the two extracts, consistently, elicited coherent effects on the cell cycle in four cell lines, independently from their phenotype, as two of them have epithelial origin and grow adherent and two are lymphoblastoid and grow in suspension. Even the expression profiles of several proteins regulating cell cycle progression and cell death were affected by both extracts. LC-MS investigation of methanol extract of C. coggygria led to the identification of twelve flavonoids (compounds 1-11, 19) and eight polyphenols derivatives (12-18, 20), while in J. communis extract, eight flavonoids (21-28), a α-ionone glycoside (29) and a lignin (30) were found. Although many of these compounds have interesting individual biological activities, their natural blends seem to exert specific effects on the proliferation of cell lines either growing adherent or in suspension, suggesting potential use in fighting cancer.

Keywords: C. coggygria; J. communis; cancer cells; cell cycle; plant alcoholic extracts; polyphenols.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anacardiaceae / chemistry
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • G2 Phase Cell Cycle Checkpoints / drug effects
  • Humans
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Medicine, Traditional
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Polyphenols / analysis
  • Polyphenols / chemistry
  • Polyphenols / pharmacology*
  • Seeds / chemistry


  • Plant Extracts
  • Polyphenols