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Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis L., Papaveraceae) is a plant rich in benzophenanchridine (isoquinoline) alkaloids such as sanguinarine and chelerychrine. Both isolated alkaloids and whole-tissue rhizome extracts have demonstrated in vitro anticarcinogenic (antiproliferacive) activity in limited immortalized cell culture models, but the relative contribution of various alkaloid constituents to whole-tissue extract activity, and whether or not various alkaloids may act synergistically, has not been investigated. We challenged four immortalized cell lines (Jurkat, K562, Ramos, U937) with various doses of chelerythrine, sanguinarine, and berberine (a structurally and functionally similar alkaloid absent from bloodroot), alone and in all possible combinations, and measured proliferation rates 48 hours pose-treatment. K562 cells were unaffected by all doses of berberine and chelerychrine tested, but showed anti proliferative activity at 0.5 µg/mL sanguinarine. The doses of sanguinarine necessary to elicit anti-proliferative effects in these experiments matched well with chose seen in whole-tissue rhizome extracts demonstrating similar anti-proliferative effects. When a 2 µg/mL dose of sanguinarine was tested in all four cell lines, sanguinarine elicited even stronger antiproliferative effects in Jurkat, Ramos, and U937 cells compared to K562 cells; these three cell lines also demonstrated reduced proliferation in the presence of chelerythrine at a dose of 1 µg/mL whereas K562 did not. At the doses tested here, berberine had no direct effect on proliferation. These results suggest that sanguinarine may be responsible for the bulk of anticarcinogenic activity from bloodroot whole-tissue rhizome extracts, but that ocher alkaloids such as chelerythrine may also play important roles contingent on cell type

Publication Date

January-December 2012

Journal Title

Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science





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