The Science of Nature

, 106:25 | Cite as

Plant origin authentication of Sonoran Desert propolis: an antiproliferative propolis from a semi-arid region

  • Efrain Alday
  • Dora Valencia
  • Adriana Garibay-Escobar
  • Zaira Domínguez-Esquivel
  • Anna Lisa Piccinelli
  • Luca Rastrelli
  • Juan Monribot-Villanueva
  • José A. Guerrero-Analco
  • Ramón Enrique Robles-Zepeda
  • Javier HernandezEmail author
  • Carlos VelazquezEmail author
Original Paper


The main chemical composition of Sonoran propolis (SP), as well as its antiproliferative activity on cancer cells through apoptosis induction, has been reported. The chemical constitution of SP remained qualitatively similar throughout the year, whereas the antiproliferative effect on cancer cells exhibited significant differences amongst seasonal samples. The main goal of this study was to provide phytochemical and pharmacological evidence for the botanical source of SP and its antiproliferative constituents. A chemical comparative analysis of SP and plant resins of species found in the surrounding areas of the beehives was carried out by HPLC-UV-DAD, as well as by 1H NMR experiments. The antiproliferative activity on cancerous (M12.C3.F6, HeLa, A549, PC-3) and normal cell lines (L-929; ARPE-19) was assessed through MTT assays. Here, the main polyphenolic profile of SP resulted to be qualitatively similar to Populus fremontii resins (PFR). However, the antiproliferative activity of PFR on cancer cells did not consistently match that exhibited by SP throughout the year. Additionally, SP induced morphological modifications on treated cells characterised by elongation, similar to those induced by colchicine, and different to those observed with PFR treatment. These results suggest that P. fremontii is the main botanical source of SP along the year. Nevertheless, the antiproliferative constituents of SP that induce that characteristic morphological elongation on treated cells are not obtained from PFR. Moreover, the presence of kaempferol-3-methyl-ether in SP could point Ambrosia ambrosioides as a secondary plant source. In conclusion, SP is a bioactive poplar-type propolis from semi-arid zones, in which chemical compounds derived from other semi-arid plant sources than poplar contribute to its antiproliferative activity.


Sonoran Desert propolis Polyphenolic profile Populus fremontii S. Watson Ambrosia ambrosioides (Cav.) Payne Antiproliferative activity 



Sonoran propolis


Populus fremontii resins


Ambrosia ambrosioides resins


Bursera laxiflora resins


Caffeic acid phenethyl ester





We would thank José Jesús Sánchez-Escalante (Curator of the University of Sonora Herbarium), Lucila Rascon and Judith Valdez for their participation and technical support in the development of this study, as well as the professional beekeeper Gilberto Valenzuela for his long-standing collaboration. Efrain Alday acknowledges CONACYT (Mexico) for a scholarship granted.

Author’s contribution

The project idea was conceived by JH and CV. EA, RERZ, JH and CV designed all the experiments. Acquisition of experiments was performed by EA, JLMV and JAGA. Data analysis and interpretation were carried out by EA, JLMV, JAGA, DV, ZDE, ALP, LR and AGE. The initial draft of the manuscript was written by EA, JH and CV. ALP, LR and RERZ performed a critical revision that significantly improved the work. All the authors revised and approved the final version of this manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Efrain Alday
    • 1
  • Dora Valencia
    • 2
  • Adriana Garibay-Escobar
    • 1
  • Zaira Domínguez-Esquivel
    • 3
  • Anna Lisa Piccinelli
    • 4
  • Luca Rastrelli
    • 4
  • Juan Monribot-Villanueva
    • 5
  • José A. Guerrero-Analco
    • 5
  • Ramón Enrique Robles-Zepeda
    • 1
  • Javier Hernandez
    • 3
    Email author
  • Carlos Velazquez
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Chemistry-BiologyUniversity of SonoraHermosilloMexico
  2. 2.Department of Chemical Biological and Agropecuary SciencesUniversity of SonoraCaborca, Son.Mexico
  3. 3.Laboratorio de Química de productos Naturales, Unidad de Servicios de Apoyo en Resolución AnalíticaUniversidad VeracruzanaXalapaMexico
  4. 4.Dipartimento di FarmaciaUniversity of SalernoFiscianoItaly
  5. 5.Red de Estudios Moleculares Avanzados, Instituto de Ecología (INECOL) A.C.Clúster Científico y Tecnológico Biomimic®XalapaMexico

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