Ethanolic Extract of Ocimum sanctum Leaves Reduced Invasion and Matrix Metalloproteinase Activity of Head and Neck Cancer Cell Lines

Document Type : Research Articles


1 Oral Biology Research Unit, Faculty of Dentistry, Thammasat University (Rangsit campus), Pathum Thani, Thailand.

2 Center of Excellence in Medicinal Herbs for Treatment of Oral Diseases, Thammasat University, Thailand.

3 Walailak University International College of Dentistry, Walailak University, Bangkok, Thailand.

4 Department of Chemistry and Center of Excellence for Innovation in Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Ramkhamhaeng University, Bangkok, Thailand.


Background: Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) has a yearly incidence of 600,000 cases worldwide with a low survival rate. Ocimum sanctum L. or Ocimum tenuiflorum L. (Holy basil; Tulsi in Hindi), is a traditional medicine herb that demonstrates numerous effects including anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, and anti-tumor effects. The aim of this study was to evaluate the anti-invasive effect of O. sanctum leaf extract on HNSCC cell lines. Methods: Ethanolic extract of O. sanctum leaf (EEOS) was prepared and the phenolic compounds were identified using high-performance liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-time of flight-mass spectrometry. Genetically matched HNSCC cell lines derived from primary (HN30 and HN4) and metastatic sites (HN31 and HN12) from the same patient were used in this study. The EEOS cytotoxicity to the cell lines was determined using an MTT assay. The invasion and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and -9 activity of EEOS-treated cells were tested using a modified Boyden chamber assay and zymography, respectively. Results: We found that EEOS significantly inhibited the invasion and MMP-2 and MMP-9 activity of HN4 and HN12 cells, but not HN30 and HN31 cells. Rosmarinic acid, caffeic acid, and apigenin were detected in EEOS. Moreover, rosmarinic acid was found as the major phenolic compound. Conclusion: EEOS exerted its anti-invasive effect on HNSCC cells by attenuating MMP activity. The active compounds identified in EEOS might be promising as an alternative therapeutic agent for HNSCC.


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