Methanolic extract of Boswellia serrata exhibits anti-cancer activities by targeting microsomal prostaglandin E synthase-1 in human colon cancer cells

Prostaglandins Other Lipid Mediat. 2017 Jul:131:1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.prostaglandins.2017.05.003. Epub 2017 May 24.


Background: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the most common cancer. A proper method to reduce mortality of CRC is chemoprevention to prevent initiation and promotion of intestinal tumorgenesis. One of the promising and developing chemopreventive agents is natural compounds found in plants. Frankincense, the resin extract from the Boswellia specious, has been used in traditional and modern medicine for treating various diseases with very minimal side effects. In the current study, we investigated the anti-cancer activity of methanolic extract of Boswellia serrata (B. serrata) on HT-29 human colon cancer cells.

Methods: HT-29 cells were treated with different concentrations of B. serrata and cell viability was assessed by MTT assay. mRNA expression of microsomal prostaglandin E synthase-1 (mPGES-1), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), C-X-C chemokine receptor type 4 (CXCR4), matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2), MMP-9 and hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) were examined by quantitative real-time PCR. Apoptosis was evaluated by the proportion of sub-G1 cells. Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) level and caspase 3 activity were determined by ELISA assay. Tube formation potential and HT-29 cells migration were assessed using three-dimensional vessel formation assay and scratch test.

Results: B. serrata extract considerably decreased the expression of mPGES-1, VEGF, CXCR4, MMP-2, MMP-9 and HIF-1. The caspase 3 activity and percent of cells in sub-G1 phase were increased by B. serrata extract. Cell viability, PGE2 generation, in vitro tube formation and cell migration were decreased significantly in B. serrata-treated HT-29 compared to the control group.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that B. serrata extract inhibits proliferation, angiogenesis and migration and induces apoptosis in HT-29 cells by inhibiting of mPGES-1 and decreasing the PGE2 level and its downstream targets.

Keywords: B. serrata extract; Colorectal cancer; Microsomal prostaglandin E synthase-1; Prostaglandin E2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Boswellia / chemistry*
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • HT29 Cells
  • Humans
  • Methanol / chemistry*
  • Microsomes / drug effects
  • Microsomes / enzymology*
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Prostaglandin-E Synthases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Prostaglandin-E Synthases / biosynthesis


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Plant Extracts
  • Caspase 3
  • Prostaglandin-E Synthases
  • Methanol