Journal of Bioenergetics and Biomembranes

, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 93–105 | Cite as

Ocimum basilicum but not Ocimum gratissimum present cytotoxic effects on human breast cancer cell line MCF-7, inducing apoptosis and triggering mTOR/Akt/p70S6K pathway

  • Renan Gianoti Torres
  • Livia Casanova
  • Julia Carvalho
  • Mariah Celestino Marcondes
  • Sonia Soares Costa
  • Mauro Sola-Penna
  • Patricia ZancanEmail author


Breast cancer is the major cause of death by cancer in women worldwide and in spite of the many drugs for its treatment, there is still the need for novel therapies for its control. Ocimum species have been used by traditional medicine to control several diseases, including cancer. We have previously characterized the antidiabetic properties of the unfractionated aqueous leaf extracts of Ocimum basilicum (OB) and Ocimum gratissimum (OG), modulating glucose metabolism in diabetic mice. Since glucose metabolism is primordial for cancer cells survival, we hypothesized that these extracts are effective against cancer cells. The unfractionated aqueous leaf extracts of OB and OG were chemically characterized and tested for their cytotoxic, cytostatic and anti-proliferative properties against the human breast cancer cell line MCF-7. Both extracts presented cytostatic effects with an 80% decrease in MCF-7 cell growth at 1 mg/mL. However, only OB promoted cytotoxic effects, interfering with the cell viability even after interruption of the treatment. Moreover, OB but not OG affected the cell proliferation and metabolism, evaluated in terms of lactate production and intracellular ATP content. After 24 h of treatment, OB treated cells presented an apoptotic profile, while OG treated cells were more necrotic. The treatment with both extracts also activated AMPK, but OB was much more efficient than OG in promoting this. The activation of mTOR signaling, another survival pathway was promoted by OB, whereas OG failed to activate it. In the end, we conclude that OB extract is efficient against the human breast cancer cell line.


Cancer Natural product Metabolism Intracellular signalization Therapy 



Authors thank to Dr. Patricia L. Mitchell for her comments and for English grammar editing of the text, and Ricardo Imbroisi for the support on cell culture procedures.


This work was supported by grants from the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq), Fundação Carlos Chagas Filho de Apoio à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ) and Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Renan Gianoti Torres
    • 1
  • Livia Casanova
    • 2
  • Julia Carvalho
    • 1
  • Mariah Celestino Marcondes
    • 1
    • 3
  • Sonia Soares Costa
    • 2
  • Mauro Sola-Penna
    • 4
  • Patricia Zancan
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Laboratório de Oncobiologia Molecular (LabOMol), Departamento de Biotecnologia Farmacêutica, Faculdade de FarmáciaUniversidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ)Rio de JaneiroBrazil
  2. 2.Instituto de Pesquisa em Produtos Naturais (IPPN)Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ)Rio de JaneiroBrazil
  3. 3.Instituto Nacional de Câncer (INCa)Rio de JaneiroBrazil
  4. 4.Laboratório de Enzimologia e Controle do Metabolismo (LabECoM), Departamento de Biotecnologia Farmacêutica, Faculdade de FarmáciaUniversidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ)Rio de JaneiroBrazil

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