Physiology and Molecular Biology of Plants

, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 1185–1201 | Cite as

Cytotoxic effect of Semialarium mexicanum (Miers) Mennega root bark extracts and fractions against breast cancer cells

  • Juan Maldonado-Cubas
  • Eduardo San Martin-Martínez
  • Cinthya Nathaly Quiroz-Reyes
  • Rocio Guadalupe Casañas-PimentelEmail author
Research Article


The root bark of Semialarium mexicanum (Miers) Mennega (cancerina) is traditionally used in Mexico to treat cancer. However, there are no studies supporting its use. We evaluated whether S. mexicanum root bark induces cytotoxicity in breast cancer cells to determine if it has potential applications in the treatment of this disease. Extracts of S. mexicanum root bark in petroleum ether, ethanol, and water were obtained by ultrasound-assisted extraction. MTT and WST-1 assays were used to evaluate the cytotoxicity of the extracts toward breast cancer cells (MDA-MB-231 and MCF7), non-tumorigenic breast-derived cells (MCF 10A), and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). For the extract with greatest cytotoxicity, induction of apoptosis and oxidative stress were determined using flow cytometry. The extract was fractionated, and the cytotoxicity of its fractions was evaluated with the four cell types. The fractions were also analyzed by HPLC. Only the petroleum ether extract was cytotoxic for all cell types (MDA-MB-231 > MCF 10A/MCF7 > PBMCs). Cell death occurred by apoptosis, which could be associated with the induction of oxidative stress. Two fractions that were highly cytotoxic for breast cancer cells were obtained from this extract (IC50 ≤ 4.15 µg/mL for the most active fraction at 72 h). The MCF 10A cells were less affected, while PBMCs were not affected after 72 h of treatment. Pristimerin was identified in both fractions and may be partially responsible for the cytotoxic effect. These results suggest that S. mexicanum root bark has a potential application in breast cancer treatment.


Cancer Cytotoxicity Cancerina Celestraceae Pristimerin Hippocratea 



This work was supported by the Instituto Politécnico Nacional and the National Council of Science and Technology, Mexico (CONACYT, Proyecto de Cátedras No. 1728).

Author Contributions Statement

ESMM, JM-C, CNQ-R and RGC-P conceived, designed and performed the experiments. JM-C, CNQ-R and RGC-P analyzed the data. ESMM contributed with reagents, materials and analysis tools. JM-C, RGC-P, CNQ-R and ESMM wrote the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Prof. H.S. Srivastava Foundation for Science and Society 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Centro de Investigación en Ciencia Aplicada y Tecnología AvanzadaUnidad LegariaCiudad de MéxicoMéxico
  2. 2.CONACYT-Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Centro de Investigación en Ciencia Aplicada y Tecnología AvanzadaUnidad LegariaCiudad de MéxicoMéxico

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