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Activity of Saponins from Medicago species Against HeLa and MCF-7 Cell Lines and their Capacity to Potentiate Cisplatin Effect

[ Vol. 17 , Issue. 11 ]


Pinarosa Avato*, Danilo Migoni, Mariapia Argentieri, Francesco P. Fanizzi and Aldo Tava   Pages 1508 - 1518 ( 11 )


Background: Saponins from Medicago species display several biological activities, among them apoptotic effects against plant cells have been evidenced. In contrast, their cytotoxic and antitumor activity against animal cells have not been studied in great details.

Objective: To explore the cytotoxic properties of saponin from Medicago species against animal cells and their effect in combination with the antitumoral drug cisplatin.

Method: Cytotoxic activity of saponin mixtures from M. arabica (tops and roots), M. arborea (tops) and M. sativa (tops, roots and seeds) and related prosapogenins from M. arborea and M. sativa (tops) against HeLa and MCF-7 cell lines is described. In addition, cytotoxicity of soyasaponin I and purified saponins (1-8) of hederagenin, medicagenic and zanhic acid is also presented. Combination experiments with cisplatin have been also conducted.

Results: Saponins from M. arabica tops and roots (mainly monodesmosides of hederagenin and bayogenin) were the most effective to reduce proliferation of HeLa and MCF-7 cell lines. Among the purified saponins, the most cytotoxic was saponin 1, 3-O-ß-D-glucopyranosyl(1→2)-α-L-arabinopyranosyl hederagenin. When saponins, derived prosapogenins and pure saponins were used in combination with cisplatin, they all, to different extent, were able to potentiate cisplatin activity against HeLa cells but not against MCF-7 cell lines. Moreover uptake of cisplatin in these cell lines was significantly reduced.

Conclusion: Overall results showed that specific molecular types of saponins (hederagenin glycosides) have potential as anti-cancer agents or as leads for anti-cancer agents. Moreover saponins from Medicago species have evidenced interesting properties to mediate cisplatin effects in tumor cell lines.


Medicago, cytotoxicity, hederagenin, saponins, HeLa cells, MCF-7 cells, cisplatin.


Dipartimento di Farmacia- Scienze del Farmaco, Via Orabona 4, 70125 Bari, DISTEBA, Universita del Salento, Via Monteroni, 73100 Lecce, Dipartimento di Farmacia-Scienze del Farmaco, Via Orabona 4, 70125, Bari, DISTEBA, Universita del Salento, Via Monteroni, 73100 Lecce, Consiglio per la Ricerca in Agricoltura e l'Analisi dell'Economia Agraria – Centro di Ricerca per le Produzioni Foraggere e Lattiero-Casearie (CREA-FLC), viale Piacenza 29, 26900 Lodi

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