Chemical characterization of Saudi propolis and its antiparasitic and anticancer properties

Samyah Alanazi, Naif Alenzi, Fouza Alenazi, Hajera Tabassum, David Watson

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17 Citations (Scopus)
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Propolis, is a gummy material produced by honey bees from different parts of plants and is enriched with varied biological active compounds like flavonoids, phenolics and phenolic acids with wide applicability in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. The current report is focused on the characterisation of propolis collected from Asir region, South-west of Saudi Arabia and its effect on Trypanosoma brucei (the causative organism of African sleeping sickness) and cytotoxic effect against U937 human leukemia cells. The Chemical composition and spectral characteristics of Saudi propolis was studied by Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS) and High-performance liquid chromatography-evaporative light scattering detector (HPLC-ELSD).The two main active compounds isolated from Saudi propolis via column chromatography and size exclusion chromatography were fisetinidol and ferulic acid. High resolution electrospray ionization-mass spectrophotometer (HRESI-MS) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) were used to elucidate the structures of the isolated compounds. All crudes extracts, fractions as well as isolated compounds were subjected for biological testing against Trypanosoma brucei (S427 WT), and their cytotoxicity against U937 human leukemia cells. Amongst the various samples investigated, S-6 fraction demonstrated highest anti-trypanosomal activity at 2.4 µg/ml MIC followed by fisetinidol at 4.7 µg/ml reflecting that the anti-trypanosomal activity is attributable to the presence of fisetinidol in the fraction. Similarly, all the tested samples exhibited cytotoxicity with an IC50 > 60 µg/ml. S-6 fractions exhibited highest cytotoxic activity against U937 cells with an IC50 of 58.7 µg/ml followed by ferulic acid with an IC50 87.7 µg/ml indicating that the cytotoxic effect of propolis might be due to the presence of ferulic acid. In conclusion, the biological activity of propolis could be attributed to the synergistic action of the two active compounds-ferulic acid and fisetinidol. The data obtained in the study is thus indicative of the role of propolis as potential anti-trypanosomal and anticancer agent for effective cancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5390
Number of pages1
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2021


  • propolis
  • flavonoids
  • phenolic acids
  • Trypanosoma brucei


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