Planta Med 2005; 71(10): 910-916
DOI: 10.1055/s-2005-871235
Original Paper
© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

A Vitex agnus-castus Extract Inhibits Cell Growth and Induces Apoptosis in Prostate Epithelial Cell Lines

M. Weisskopf1 , W. Schaffner1 , G. Jundt2 , T. Sulser3 , S. Wyler3 , H. Tullberg-Reinert2
  • 1Institute of Pharmaceutical Biology, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland
  • 2Institute of Pathology, Kantonsspital Basel/University Clinics, Basel, Switzerland
  • 3Department of Urology, Kantonsspital Basel/University Clinics, Basel, Switzerland
Further Information

Publication History

Received: December 2, 2004

Accepted: April 4, 2005

Publication Date:
22 August 2005 (online)


Extracts of Vitex agnus-castus fruits (VACF) are described to have beneficial effects on disorders related to hyperprolactinemia (cycle disorders, premenstrual syndrome). A VACF extract has recently been shown to exhibit antitumor activities in different human cancer cell lines. In the present study, we explored the antiproliferative effects of a VACF extract with a particular focus on apoptosis-inducing and potential cytotoxic effects. Three different human prostate epithelial cell lines (BPH-1, LNCaP, PC-3) representing different disease stages and androgen responsiveness were chosen. The action of VACF on cell viability was assessed using the WST-8-tetrazolium assay. Cell proliferation in cells receiving VACF alone or in combination with a pan-caspase inhibitor (Z-VAD-fmk) was quantified using a Crystal Violet assay. Flow cytometric cell cycle analysis and measurement of DNA fragmentation using an ELISA method were used for studying the induction of apoptosis. Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activity was determined as a marker of cytotoxicity. The extract inhibited proliferation of all three cell lines in a concentration-dependent manner with IC50 values below 10 μg/mL after treatment for 48 h. Cell cycle analysis and DNA fragmentation assays suggest that part of the cells were undergoing apoptosis. The VACF-induced decrease in cell number was partially inhibited by Z-VAD-fmk, indicating a caspase-dependent apoptotic cell death. However, the concentration-dependent LDH activity of VACF treated cells indicated cytotoxic effects as well. These data suggest that VACF contains components that inhibit proliferation and induce apoptosis in human prostate epithelial cell lines. The extract may be useful for the prevention and/or treatment not only of benign prostatic hyperplasia but also of human prostate cancer.


BPH:benign prostatic hyperplasia

CV:Crystal Violet

DMSO:dimethyl sulfoxide

ER:estrogen receptor

FBS:fetal bovine serum

LDH:lactate dehydrogenase

O.D.:optical density


PCA:prostate cancer

VACF:Vitex agnus-castus fruit extract


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Dr. Heide Tullberg-Reinert

Institut für Pathologie

Kantonsspital Basel

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4003 Basel


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