Potential Anticancer Activity of the Furanocoumarin Derivative Xanthotoxin Isolated from Ammi majus L. Fruits: In Vitro and In Silico Studies

Molecules. 2022 Jan 29;27(3):943. doi: 10.3390/molecules27030943.


Ammi majus L., an indigenous plant in Egypt, is widely used in traditional medicine due to its various pharmacological properties. We aimed to evaluate the anticancer properties of Ammi majus fruit methanol extract (AME) against liver cancer and to elucidate the active compound(s) and their mechanisms of action. Three fractions from AME (Hexane, CH2Cl2, and EtOAc) were tested for their anticancer activities against HepG2 cell line in vitro (cytotoxicity assay, cell cycle analysis, annexin V-FITC apoptosis assay, and autophagy efflux assay) and in silico (molecular docking). Among the AME fractions, CH2Cl2 fraction revealed the most potent cytotoxic activity. The structures of compounds isolated from the CH2Cl2 fraction were elucidated using 1H- and 13C-NMR and found that Compound 1 (xanthotoxin) has the strongest cytotoxic activity against HepG2 cells (IC50 6.9 ± 1.07 µg/mL). Treating HepG2 cells with 6.9 µg/mL of xanthotoxin induced significant changes in the DNA-cell cycle (increases in apoptotic pre-G1 and G2/M phases and a decrease in the S-phase). Xanthotoxin induced significant increase in Annexin-V-positive HepG2 cells both at the early and late stages of apoptosis, as well as a significant decrease in autophagic flux in cancer compared with control cells. In silico analysis of xanthotoxin against the DNA-relaxing enzyme topoisomease II (PDB code: 3QX3) revealed strong interaction with the key amino acid Asp479 in a similar fashion to that of the co-crystallized inhibitor (etoposide), implying that xanthotoxin has a potential of a broad-spectrum anticancer activity. Our results indicate that xanthotoxin exhibits anticancer effects with good biocompatibility toward normal human cells. Further studies are needed to optimize its antitumor efficacy, toxicity, solubility, and pharmacokinetics.

Keywords: Ammi majus; HepG2; apoptosis; coumarins; molecular docking; topoisomerase II; xanthotoxin.

MeSH terms

  • Ammi / chemistry*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Furocoumarins / pharmacology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Methoxsalen / pharmacology*


  • Furocoumarins
  • Methoxsalen