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Digitonin synergistically enhances the cytotoxicity of plant secondary metabolites in cancer cells.

Phytomedicine : international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology (2012-10-16)
Safaa Yehia Eid, Mahmoud Zaki El-Readi, Michael Wink

In phytotherapy, extracts from medicinal plants are employed which contain mixtures of secondary metabolites. Their modes of action are complex because the secondary metabolites can react with single or multiple targets. The components in a mixture can exert additive or even synergistic activities. In this study, the cytotoxicity of some phytochemicals, including phenolics (EGCG and thymol), terpenoids (menthol, aromadendrene, β-sitosterol-O-glucoside, and β-carotene) and alkaloids (glaucine, harmine, and sanguinarine) were investigated alone or in combination with the cytotoxic monodesmosidic steroidal saponin digitonin in Caco-2, MCF-7, CEM/ADR5000, and CCRF-CEM cells. Digitonin was combined in non-toxic concentrations (5μM in each cell line; except in MCF-7 the concentration was 2μM), together with a selection of phenolics, terpenoids, and alkaloids to evaluate potential synergistic or additive effects. An enhanced cytotoxicity was observed in most combinations. Even multi-drug resistant (MDR) cells (such as CEM/ADR5000 cells), with a high expression of P-glycoprotein, were responsive to combinations. Sanguinarine was the most cytotoxic alkaloid against CEM/ADR5000, MCF-7, and CCRF-CEM cells alone and in combination with digitonin. As compared to sanguinarine alone, the combination was 44.53-, 15.38-, and 6.65-fold more toxic in each cell line, respectively. Most combinations synergistically increased the cytotoxicity, stressing the importance of synergy when using multi-target drugs and mixtures in phytotherapy.

Product Number
Product Description

Digitonin, ~50% (TLC)
Digitonin, Used as non-ionic detergent
Sanguinarine chloride hydrate, ≥98% (HPLC)