In Vitro Toxicity of Asparagus Saponins in Distinct Multidrug-Resistant Colon Cancer Cells

Chem Biodivers. 2018 Nov;15(11):e1800282. doi: 10.1002/cbdv.201800282. Epub 2018 Oct 26.


Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the world. Many efforts have focused on finding natural molecules with potential chemo-preventive activity due to their low toxicity compared to synthetic drugs. However, comprehensive information on the bioactive fractions and components is still missing. In this study, we developed a method for the quantitative separation and isolation of saponins from asparagus genotypes consisting of an adsorption chromatography and subsequent liquid chromatographic separation on a reversed-phase column. The saponins isolated were tested for their cytotoxic activity against human colon cancer cell lines, which could develop cross-resistance to a wide variety of chemotherapeutic drugs. Our results showed that Huétor-Tájar asparagus saponins (HTSAP), mainly protodioscin and HTSAP-10 have higher cytotoxic activity than HTSAP-1, HTSAP-6, and HTSAP-8. This study links the potential anticancer effect of asparagus to specific saponins and unveils the triguero Huétor-Tájar asparagus as a nutraceutical particularly in colon cancer therapies.

Keywords: asparagus; biological activity; colon cancer cells; cytotoxicity; saponins.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / isolation & purification
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Asparagus Plant / chemistry*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple / drug effects*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / drug effects*
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • Humans
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Saponins / chemistry
  • Saponins / isolation & purification
  • Saponins / pharmacology*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Saponins