Stigmasterol is an unsaturated phytosterol belonging to the class of tetracyclic triterpenes. It is one of the most common plant sterols, found in a variety of natural sources, including vegetable fats or oils from many plants. Currently, stigmasterol has been examined via in vitro and in vivo assays and molecular docking for its various biological activities on different metabolic disorders. The findings indicate potent pharmacological effects such as anticancer, anti-osteoarthritis, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, immunomodulatory, antiparasitic, antifungal, antibacterial, antioxidant, and neuroprotective properties. Indeed, stigmasterol from plants and algae is a promising molecule in the development of drugs for cancer therapy by triggering intracellular signaling pathways in numerous cancers. It acts on the Akt/mTOR and JAK/STAT pathways in ovarian and gastric cancers. In addition, stigmasterol markedly disrupted angiogenesis in human cholangiocarcinoma by tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 (VEGFR-2) signaling down-regulation. The association of stigmasterol and sorafenib promoted caspase-3 activity and down-regulated levels of the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2 in breast cancer. Antioxidant activities ensuring lipid peroxidation and DNA damage lowering conferred to stigmasterol chemoprotective activities in skin cancer. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) regulation also contributes to the neuroprotective effects of stigmasterol, as well as dopamine depletion and acetylcholinesterase inhibition. The anti-inflammatory properties of phytosterols involve the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines, the decrease in inflammatory mediator release, and the inhibition of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). Stigmasterol exerts anti-diabetic effects by reducing fasting glucose, serum insulin levels, and oral glucose tolerance. Other findings showed the antiparasitic activities of this molecule against certain strains of parasites such as Trypanosoma congolense (in vivo) and on promastigotes and amastigotes of the Leishmania major (in vitro). Some stigmasterol-rich plants were able to inhibit Candida albicans, virusei, and tropicalis at low doses. Accordingly, this review outlines key insights into the pharmacological abilities of stigmasterol and the specific mechanisms of action underlying some of these effects. Additionally, further investigation regarding pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics, and toxicology is recommended.
Keywords: anti-inflammatory; anticancer; immunomodulatory; pharmacological activities; stigmasterol.