Flavone polyphenols dominate in Thymus schimperi Ronniger: LC-ESI-MS/MS characterization and study of anti-proliferative effects of plant extract on AGS and HepG2 cancer cells

J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2017 May 15;1053:1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jchromb.2017.03.035. Epub 2017 Mar 31.


Thymus schimperi is a highly localized and a rare plant endemic to Ethiopia. An optimized and validated high-performance liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-ESI-MS/MS) method was applied to characterize 23 polyphenolic compounds found in ethyl acetate extracts of the plant. From those, flavones dominated and luteolin was the major component contributing 21.83% of the total composition (or 46.05±0.59g/kg of fresh sample weight). Validation data showed a determination coefficient (R2)≥0.997. Limits of detection (LOD) and quantification (LOQ) were 0.03-0.97 and 0.11-3.23mg/L, while recovery values spiked at 5 and 50mg/L were between 70.89-115.39 and 67.65-120.19%, respectively. Except for caffeic acid and epicatechin gallate, the relative standard deviations (%RSDs) were far below 15%, showing acceptable precision values. The plant extracts inhibited cell proliferation and induced cell death in human gastric adenocarcinoma (AGS) and liver hepatocellular carcinoma (HepG2) cancer cells. This is the first report of polyphenolic components from T. schimperi being characterized using HPLC-ESI-MS/MS. Being components of many edible vegetables, fruits, and spices, the identified polyphenols suggest that T. schimperi could be a potential food with promising health benefits.

Keywords: Anti-proliferative effects; Cancer cells; Isolation; Polyphenols; Tandem mass spectrometry; Thymus schimperi.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / analysis*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Flavones / analysis
  • Flavones / pharmacology
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Limit of Detection
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Polyphenols / analysis*
  • Polyphenols / pharmacology*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Thymus Plant / chemistry*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Flavones
  • Polyphenols