Worldwide, colorectal cancer (CRC) is a deleterious disease causing millions of death annually. 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) is a first-line chemotherapy for CRC, but chemoresistance and gastrointestinal mucositis limit its efficacy. Polyphenol-rich foods are increasingly popular due to their potential beneficial roles in preventing and treating cancer. Ellagitannins are a group of phenolic compounds commonly found in pomegranate, strawberries, raspberries, etc. The objective of this study was to explore whether ellagitannins from pomegranate (PETs) could ameliorate 5-FU-induced intestinal mucositis and enhance the drug's efficacy against CRC. The results showed that PETs (100 mg/kg) counteracted 5-FU-induced intestinal mucositis in rats. The number of apoptotic cells per crypt was reduced from 1.50 ± 0.21 to 0.85 ± 0.18 ( P < 0.05). Moreover, PETs induced HT-29 CRC cell death through intrinsic apoptosis, as demonstrated by dissipation of mitochondrial membrane potential, increased Bax-to-Bcl-2 ratio, and cleavage of caspase 9 and caspase 3. PETs and 5-FU combination treatments exhibited synergistic cytotoxicity against HT-29 cells with a weighted combination index of 0.3494. PETs (80 μg/mL) and 5-FU (40 μg/mL) treatments for 48 h induced 14.03 ± 0.76% and 16.42 ± 1.15% of HT-29 cells to undergo apoptosis, while the combination treatment further increased apoptosis of cells to 34.00 ± 1.54% ( P < 0.05). Combination treatment of the cells also enhanced S phase cell cycle arrest as compared with PETs or 5-FU monotherapy ( P < 0.05). These results suggest that dietary ellagitannins from pomegranate could alleviate intestinal mucositis in rats induced by 5-FU while enhancing its toxicity against HT-29 cells through potentiation of apoptosis and cell cycle arrest.
Keywords: 5-fluorouracil; HT-29 cells; colorectal cancer; intestinal mucositis; pomegranate peel ellagitannins.