Cytotoxic and genotoxic activity of some Helleborus species

Despite their known toxic properties, various Helleborus species are used as medicaments in folk medicine to treat some diseases and health conditions. As the main mechanism of many cytostatic drugs is based on their cytotoxic activity, there is potential for the toxicity of hellebore to be used in anticancer therapy. This study tested the geno- and cytotoxic effects of extracts of three hellebore taxa (Helleborus odorus, Helleborus multifidus and Helleborus hercegovinus) on meristemic onion (Alliumcepa L.) cells and human lymphocytes. Treatments with Helleborus extracts induced cytotoxic and cytostatic effects in meristemic onion cells as well as in cultivated cytokinesis-blocked human lymphocytes. Cytokinesis-block micronucleus cytome assay indicated that treatments with hellebore extracts induce genotoxic effects in human lymphocytes, and that the significant mechanism of their antiproliferative activity is apoptosis induction.

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