Anti-cancer agents in Saudi Arabian herbals revealed by automated high-content imagingReport as inadecuate

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Natural products have been used for medical applications since ancient times. Commonly, natural products are structurally complex chemical compounds that efficiently interact with their biological targets, making them useful drug candidates in cancer therapy. Here, we used cell-based phenotypic profiling and image-based high-content screening to study the mode of action and potential cellular targets of plants historically used in Saudi Arabia’s traditional medicine. We compared the cytological profiles of fractions taken from Juniperus phoenicea Arar, Anastatica hierochuntica Kaff Maryam, and Citrullus colocynthis Hanzal with a set of reference compounds with established modes of action. Cluster analyses of the cytological profiles of the tested compounds suggested that these plants contain possible topoisomerase inhibitors that could be effective in cancer treatment. Using histone H2AX phosphorylation as a marker for DNA damage, we discovered that some of the compounds induced double-strand DNA breaks. Furthermore, chemical analysis of the active fraction isolated from Juniperus phoenicea revealed possible anti-cancer compounds. Our results demonstrate the usefulness of cell-based phenotypic screening of natural products to reveal their biological activities.

Author: Dina Hajjar, Stephan Kremb, Salim Sioud, Abdul-Hamid Emwas, Christian R. Voolstra , Timothy Ravasi



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