The Cytotoxic Effect of Apis mellifera Venom with a Synergistic Potential of Its Two Main Components-Melittin and PLA2-On Colon Cancer HCT116 Cell Lines

Molecules. 2021 Apr 14;26(8):2264. doi: 10.3390/molecules26082264.


Colon carcinogenesis is ranked second globally among human diseases after cardiovascular failures. Bee venom (BV) has been shown to possess in vitro anticancer effects against several types of cancer cells. The two main biopeptides of Apis mellifera BV, namely, melittin (MEL) and phospholipase A2 (PLA2), are suspected to be the biomolecules responsible for the anticancer activity. The present work aims to evaluate the cytotoxic effect of the A. mellifera venom on human colon carcinoma cells (HCT116), and to assess the synergistic effect of MEL and PLA2 on these cells. After analyzing, through high-pressure liquid chromatography, the proportions of MEL and PLA2 on BV, we have established a cell viability assay to evaluate the effect of BV, MEL, PLA2, and a mixture of MEL and PLA2 on the HCT116 cells. Results obtained showed a strong cytotoxicity effect induced by the A. mellifera venom and to a lower extent MEL or PLA2 alone. Remarkably, when MEL and PLA2 were added together, their cytotoxic effect was greatly improved, suggesting a synergistic activity on HCT116 cells. These findings confirm the cytotoxic effect of the A. mellifera venom and highlight the presence of synergistic potential activities between MEL and PLA2, possibly inducing membrane disruption of HCT116 cancer cells. Altogether, these results could serve as a basis for the development of new anticancer treatments.

Keywords: Apis mellifera; HCT116 cell lines; PLA2; bee venom; in vitro anticancer effect; melittin.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / chemistry*
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Drug Synergism
  • HCT116 Cells
  • Humans
  • Melitten / pharmacology*
  • Phospholipases A2 / pharmacology*


  • Melitten
  • Phospholipases A2