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Achillea millefolium L. hydroethanolic extract inhibits growth of human tumor cell lines by interfering with cell cycle and inducing apoptosis

The cell growth inhibitory activity of the hydroethanolic extract of Achillea millefolium was studied in human tumor cell lines (NCI-H460 and HCT-15) and its mechanism of action was investigated. The GI50 concentration was determined with the sulforhodamine B assay and cell cycle and apoptosis were analyzed by flow cytometry following incubation with PI or Annexin V FITC/PI, respectively. The expression levels of proteins involved in cell cycle and apoptosis were analyzed by Western blot. The extracts were characterized regarding their phenolic composition by LC-DAD-ESI/MS. 3,5-O-Dicaffeoylquinic acid, followed by 5-O-caffeoylquinic acid, were the main phenolic acids, while, luteolin-O-acetylhexoside and apigenin-O-acetylhexoside were the main flavonoids. This extract decreased the growth of the tested cell lines, being more potent in HCT-15 and then in NCIH460 cells. Two different concentrations of the extract (75 and 100 μg/mL) caused alterations in cell cycle profile and increased apoptosis levels in HCT-15 and NCI-H460 cells. Moreover, the extract caused an increase in p53 and p21 expression in NCI-H460 cells (which have wt p53), and reduced XIAP levels in HCT-15 cells (with mutant p53). This work enhances the importance of A. millefolium as source of bioactive phenolic compounds, particularly of XIAP inhibitors.