Open Access Research article

A gallotannin-rich fraction from Caesalpinia spinosa (Molina) Kuntze displays cytotoxic activity and raises sensitivity to doxorubicin in a leukemia cell line

Diana M Castañeda1, Luis Miguel Pombo2, Claudia Patricia Urueña1, John Fredy Hernandez1 and Susana Fiorentino1*

Author Affiliations

1 Grupo de Inmunobiología y Biología Celular, Facultad de Ciencias, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia, Carrera 7 N. 43-82 Building 52, Office 608

2 Grupo de Farmacología Vegetal, Fundación Universitaria Juan N. Corpas, Bogotá, Colombia, Carrera 111 # 159A61

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012, 12:38  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-38

Published: 10 April 2012



Enhancement of tumor cell sensitivity may help facilitate a reduction in drug dosage using conventional chemotherapies. Consequently, it is worthwhile to search for adjuvants with the potential of increasing chemotherapeutic drug effectiveness and improving patient quality of life. Natural products are a very good source of such adjuvants.


The biological activity of a fraction enriched in hydrolysable polyphenols (P2Et) obtained from Caesalpinia spinosa was evaluated using the hematopoietic cell line K562. This fraction was tested alone or in combination with the conventional chemotherapeutic drugs doxorubicin, vincristine, etoposide, camptothecin and taxol. The parameters evaluated were mitochondrial depolarization, caspase 3 activation, chromatin condensation and clonogenic activity.


We found that the P2Et fraction induced mitochondrial depolarization, activated caspase 3, induced chromatin condensation and decreased the clonogenic capacity of the K562 cell line. When the P2Et fraction was used in combination with chemotherapeutic drugs at sub-lethal concentrations, a fourfold reduction in doxorubicin inhibitory concentration 50 (IC50) was seen in the K562 cell line. This finding suggested that P2Et fraction activity is specific for the molecular target of doxorubicin.


Our results suggest that a natural fraction extracted from Caesalpinia spinosa in combination with conventional chemotherapy in combination with natural products on leukemia cells may increase therapeutic effectiveness in relation to leukemia.

Adjuvants; Gallotannins; C.spinosa; Tumor; Leukemia