Phytochemical, antioxidant, anti-proliferative and antimicrobial properties of Catharanthus roseus root extract, saponin-enriched and aqueous fractions

  • Hong Ngoc Thuy PhamEmail author
  • Jennette A. Sakoff
  • Quan Van Vuong
  • Michael C. Bowyer
  • Christopher J. ScarlettEmail author
Original Article


Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don (C. roseus) is a well-known medicinal plant for its source of alkaloids solely found in the leaves. Other parts including the root are usually discarded after the alkaloid extraction. This study sought to investigate phytochemical profiles, antioxidant, antimicrobial and cytotoxic properties of the C. roseus root extract (RE) and its two sub-fractions including saponin-enriched (SE) and aqueous (AQ) fractions. The results showed that the RE was a rich source of saponins (1744.44 mg ESE/g) and phenolics (51.27 mg GAE/g), which comprised of gallic acid (25.74 mg/g), apigenin (1.45 mg/g) and kaempferol (1.58 mg/g). The SE fraction was enriched with 31% of saponins and 63% of phenolics higher than those of the RE; whereas the concentrations of saponins and phenolics of the AQ fraction were lower than those of the RE by 40% and 74%, respectively. The content of gallic acid in the SE fraction was 1.4-fold and 1.5-fold higher than those of the RE or AQ fraction, respectively. The SE fraction demonstrated potent antioxidant capacity, which was significantly higher than the RE or AQ fraction, and also exhibited strong anti-proliferative activity against 11 cancer cell lines including A2780 (ovarian), H460 (lung), A431 (skin), MIA PaCa-2 (pancreas), Du145 (prostate), HT29 (colon), MCF-7 (breast), BE2-C (neuroblastoma), SJ-G2, U87 and SMA (glioblastoma) with low GI50 values (≤ 2.00 µg/mL). The SE fraction was also shown to effectively inhibit the growth of both bacteria (Escherichia coli, Enterobacter aerogenes and Staphylococccus lugdunensis) and fungi (Candida albicans and Aspergillus niger). These findings warrant further investigation to isolate major compounds from the SE fraction and further test their antioxidant, anticancer and antimicrobial activities.


Catharanthus roseus Phytochemicals Anti-proliferative Antioxidant Antimicrobial properties 



We would like to thank the University of Newcastle, Australia that awarded the scholarships (UNIPRS and UNRSC 50:50) to the first author.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Environmental and Life Sciences, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of NewcastleOurimbahAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of Food TechnologyNha Trang UniversityNha Trang CityVietnam
  3. 3.Department of Medical OncologyCalvary Mater Newcastle HospitalWaratahAustralia

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