Tea flower saponins (TFS) possess effective anticancer properties. The diversity and complexity of TFS increases the difficulty of their extraction and purification from tea flowers. Here, multiple methods including solvent extraction, microporous resin separation and preparative HPLC separation were used to obtain TFS with a yield of 0.34%. Furthermore, we revealed that TFS induced autophagy-as evidenced by an increase in MDC-positive cell populations and mCherry-LC3B-labeled autolysosomes and an upregulation of LC3II protein levels. 3-MA reversed the decrease in cell viability induced by TFS, showing that TFS induced autophagic cell death. TFS-induced autophagy was not dependent on the Akt/mTOR/p70S6K signaling pathway. TFS-induced autophagy in OVCAR-3 cells was accompanied by ERK pathway activation and reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation. This paper is the first report of TFS-mediated autophagy of ovarian cancer cells. These results provide new insights for future studies of the anti-cancer effects of TFS.
Keywords: autophagy; ovarian cancer; phytochemicals; saponins; tea (Camellia sinensis) flower.