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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A potential anti-tumor herbal medicine, Corilagin, inhibits ovarian cancer cell growth through blocking the TGF-β signaling pathways

Luoqi Jia1, Hongyan Jin1, Jiayi Zhou1, Lianghua Chen2, Yiling Lu3, Yanlin Ming2 and Yinhua Yu1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Gynecology, Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital of Fudan University, Shanghai Key Laboratory of Female Reproductive Endocrine Related Diseases, Shanghai 200011, People’s Republic of China

2 The Research and Development Center for Medicine Plants and Plant Drugs, Xiamen Overseas Chinese Subtropical Plant Introduction Garden, Xiamen, 361002, People’s Republic of China

3 The University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, 77030, USA

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013, 13:33  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-33

Published: 15 February 2013



Phyllanthus niruri L. is a well-known hepatoprotective and antiviral medicinal herb. Recently, we identified Corilagin as a major active component with anti-tumor activity in this herbal medicine. Corilagin is a member of the tannin family that has been discovered in many medicinal plants and has been used as an anti-inflammatory agent. However, there have been few reports of the anti-tumor effects of Corilagin, and its anti-tumor mechanism has not been investigated clearly. The aim of the present study is to investigate the anticancer properties of Corilagin in ovarian cancer cells.


The ovarian cancer cell lines SKOv3ip, Hey and HO-8910PM were treated with Corilagin and analyzed by Sulforhodamine B (SRB) cell proliferation assay, flow cytometry, and reverse phase protein array (RPPA). Corilagin was delivered intraperitoneally to mice bearing SKOv3ip xenografts.


Corilagin inhibited the growth of the ovarian cancer cell lines SKOv3ip and Hey, with IC50 values of less than 30 μM, while displaying low toxicity against normal ovarian surface epithelium cells, with IC50 values of approximately 160 μM. Corilagin induced cell cycle arrest at the G2/M stage and enhanced apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells. Immunoblotting assays demonstrated that Cyclin B1, Myt1, Phospho-cdc2 and Phospho-Weel were down-regulated after Corilagin treatment. Xenograft tumor growth was significantly lower in the Corilagin-treated group compared with the untreated control group (P <0.05). More interestingly, Corilagin inhibited TGF-β secretion into the culture supernatant of all tested ovarian cancer cell lines and blocked the TGF-β-induced stabilization of Snail. In contrast, a reduction of TGF-β secretion was not observed in cancer cells treated with the cytotoxic drug Paclitaxel, suggesting that Corilagin specifically targets TGF-β secretion. Corilagin blocked the activation of both the canonical Smad and non-canonical ERK/AKT pathways.


Corilagin extracted from Phyllanthus niruri L. acts as a natural, effective therapeutic agent against the growth of ovarian cancer cells via targeted action against the TGF-β/AKT/ERK/Smad signaling pathways.

Corilagin; Herbal medicine; TGF-β; Ovarian cancer; Epithelial-mesenchymal transition; Cell cycle G2/M arrest; Apoptosis