Guaraná, a Highly Caffeinated Food, Presents in vitro Antitumor Activity in Colorectal and Breast Cancer Cell Lines by Inhibiting AKT/mTOR/S6K and MAPKs Pathways

Nutr Cancer. 2017 Jul;69(5):800-810. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2017.1324994. Epub 2017 Jun 1.


The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) pathways are frequently upregulated in cancer. Some authors have reported that some antioxidant molecules could be potential inhibitors of these pathways. Therefore, we investigated the in vitro antitumor effect of guaraná by inhibiting the AKT/mTOR/S6K and MAPKs pathways. Colorectal and breast cancer cell lineages, HT-29 and MCF-7 cells, respectively, were exposed to different guaraná concentrations (0.1, 1, 10, and 100 µg/mL) as well as its main bioactive molecule, caffeine, in proportional concentrations to those found in the extract. Western blot, clonogenic assay, and growth curve were performed. Moreover, we investigated the potential cytotoxic effect of guaraná in normal cells. The results revealed that guaraná and caffeine inhibited some MAPKs proteins (p-p38 and p-HSP27) in MCF-7 cells. However, they did not affect this pathway in HT-29 cells. Furthermore, guaraná inhibited mTORC1 (p-S6K) and mTORC2 (p-AKT) in MCF-7 cells, but only mTORC1 in HT-29 cells. Caffeine only inhibited the mTOR pathway in MCF-7 cells. Guaraná decreased the colony formation and cell growth in MCF-7 and HT-29 cells. Guaraná did not affect normal cells. In conclusion, guaraná could be an important agent in antitumor pharmacologic therapies by inhibiting the mTOR and MAPKs pathways.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Caffeine / pharmacology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • HT29 Cells
  • Humans
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / drug effects
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Paullinia / chemistry*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Ribosomal Protein S6 Kinases / metabolism
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Caffeine
  • MTOR protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Ribosomal Protein S6 Kinases
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases