Apoptosis-Induced Cell Death due to Oleanolic Acid in HaCaT Keratinocyte Cells -a Proof-of-Principle Approach for Chemopreventive Drug Development

  • George, V. Cijo (School of Bio Sciences and Technology, VIT University) ;
  • Kumar, D.R. Naveen (School of Bio Sciences and Technology, VIT University) ;
  • Suresh, P.K. (School of Bio Sciences and Technology, VIT University) ;
  • Kumar, R. Ashok (Department of Zoology, Government Arts College)
  • Published : 2012.05.30


Oleanolic acid (OA) is a naturally occurring triterpenoid in food materials and is a component of the leaves and roots of Olea europaea, Viscum album L., Aralia chinensis L. and more than 120 other plant species. There are several reports validating its antitumor activity against different cancer cells apart from its hepatoprotective activity. However, antitumor activity against skin cancer has not beed studied well thus far. Hence the present study of effects of OA against HaCaT (immortalized keratinocyte) cells - a cell-based epithelial model system for toxicity/ethnopharmacology-based studies - was conducted. Radical scavenging activity ($DPPH{\cdot}$) and FRAP were determined spectrophotometrically. Proliferation was assessed by XTT assay at 24, 48 and 72 hrs with exposure to various concentrations (12.5-200 ${\mu}M$) of OA. Apoptotic induction potential of OA was demonstrated using a cellular DNA fragmentation ELISA method. Morphological studies were also carried out to elucidate its antitumor potential. The results revealed that OA induces apoptosis by altering cellular morphology as well as DNA integrity in HaCaT cells in a dose-dependent manner, with comparatively low cytotoxicity. The moderate toxicity observed in HaCaT cells, with induction of apoptosis, possibly suggests greater involvement of programmed-cell death-mediated mechanisms. We conclude that OA has relatively low toxicity and has the potential to induce apoptosis in HaCaT cells and hence provides a substantial and sound scientific basis for further validation studies.


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