Rosin (Colophony) is a natural resin derived from species of the pine family Pinaceae. It has wide industrial applications including printing inks, photocopying paper, adhesives and varnishes, soap and soda. Rosin and its derivatives are employed as ingredients in various pharmaceutical products such as ointments and plasters. Rosin-based products contain allergens that may exert some occupational health problems such as asthma and contact dermatitis.
Our knowledge on the pharmaceutical and medicinal properties of rosin is limited. The current study aims at investigating the cytotoxic potential of rosin-derived crude methanolic extract (RDCME) and elucidation of its mode-of-action against breast cancer cells (MCF-7 and MDAMB231).
Crude methanol extract was prepared from rosin. Its phenolic contents were analyzed by reversed-phase High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (RP-HPLC). Antioxidant activity was evaluated by DPPH radical-scavenging assay. Antiproliferation activity against MCF-7 and MDA-MB231 cancerous cells was investigated by MTT assay; its potency compared with doxorubicin as positive control and specificity was assessed compared to two non-cancerous cell lines (BJ-1 and MCF-12F). Selected apoptosis protein markers were assayed by western blotting. Cell cycle analysis was performed by Annexin V-FITC/PI FACS assay.
RD-CME exhibited significant and selective cytotoxicity against the two tested breast cancer cells (MCF-7 and MDA-MB231) compared to normal cells as revealed by MTT assay. ELISA and western blotting indicated that the observed antiproliferative activity of RD-CME is mediated via the engagement of an intrinsic apoptosis signaling pathway, as judged by enhanced expression of key pro-apoptotic protein markers (p53, Bax and Casp 3) relative to vehicle solvent-treated MCF-7 control cells.
To our knowledge, this the first report to investigate the medicinal anticancer and antioxidant potential of crude methanolic extract derived from colophony rosin. We provided evidence that RD-CME exhibits a strong antioxidant and anticancer effects. The observed cytotoxic activity against MCF-7 is proposed to take place via G2/M cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Colophony resin has a great potential to join the arsenal of plant-derived natural anticancer drugs. Further thorough investigation of the potential cytotoxicity of RD-CME against various cancerous cell lines is required to assess the spectrum and potency of its novel activity.

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