PloS one

Acetonic extract of Buxus sempervirens induces cell cycle arrest, apoptosis and autophagy in breast cancer cells.

PMID 21935420


Plants are an invaluable source of potential new anti-cancer drugs. Here, we investigated the cytotoxic activity of the acetonic extract of Buxus sempervirens on five breast cancer cell lines, MCF7, MCF10CA1a and T47D, three aggressive triple positive breast cancer cell lines, and BT-20 and MDA-MB-435, which are triple negative breast cancer cell lines. As a control, MCF10A, a spontaneously immortalized but non-tumoral cell line has been used. The acetonic extract of Buxus sempervirens showed cytotoxic activity towards all the five studied breast cancer cell lines with an IC(50) ranging from 7.74 µg/ml to 12.5 µg/ml. Most importantly, the plant extract was less toxic towards MCF10A with an IC(50) of 19.24 µg/ml. Fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) analysis showed that the plant extract induced cell death and cell cycle arrest in G0/G1 phase in MCF7, T47D, MCF10CA1a and BT-20 cell lines, concomitant to cyclin D1 downregulation. Application of MCF7 and MCF10CA1a respective IC(50) did not show such effects on the control cell line MCF10A. Propidium iodide/Annexin V double staining revealed a pre-apoptotic cell population with extract-treated MCF10CA1a, T47D and BT-20 cells. Transmission electron microscopy analyses indicated the occurrence of autophagy in MCF7 and MCF10CA1a cell lines. Immunofluorescence and Western blot assays confirmed the processing of microtubule-associated protein LC3 in the treated cancer cells. Moreover, we have demonstrated the upregulation of Beclin-1 in these cell lines and downregulation of Survivin and p21. Also, Caspase-3 detection in treated BT-20 and T47D confirmed the occurrence of apoptosis in these cells. Our findings indicate that Buxus sempervirens extract exhibit promising anti-cancer activity by triggering both autophagic cell death and apoptosis, suggesting that this plant may contain potential anti-cancer agents for single or combinatory cancer therapy against breast cancer.