Pro-apoptotic activity of α-bisabolol in preclinical models of primary human acute leukemia cells

Cavalieri E, Rigo A, Bonifacio M, Carcereri de Prati A, Guardalben E, Bergamini C, Fato R, Pizzolo G, Suzuki H, Vinante F
Journal of Translational Medicine, 2011


We previously demonstrated that the plant-derived agent α-bisabolol enters cells via lipid rafts, binds to the pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family protein BID, and may induce apoptosis. Here we studied the activity of α-bisabolol in acute leukemia cells.

We tested ex vivo blasts from 42 acute leukemias (14 Philadelphia-negative and 14 Philadelphia-positive B acute lymphoid leukemias, Ph-/Ph+B-ALL; 14 acute myeloid leukemias, AML) for their sensitivity to α-bisabolol in 24-hour dose-response assays. Concentrations and time were chosen based on CD34+, CD33+my and normal peripheral blood cell sensitivity to increasing α-bisabolol concentrations for up to 120 hours.

A clustering analysis of the sensitivity over 24 hours identified three clusters. Cluster 1 (14 ± 5 μM α-bisabolol IC50) included mainly Ph-B-ALL cells. AML cells were split into cluster 2 and 3 (45 ± 7 and 65 ± 5 μM IC50). Ph+B-ALL cells were scattered, but mainly grouped into cluster 2. All leukemias, including 3 imatinib-resistant cases, were eventually responsive, but a subset of B-ALL cells was fairly sensitive to low α-bisabolol concentrations. α-bisabolol acted as a pro-apoptotic agent via a direct damage to mitochondrial integrity, which was responsible for the decrease in NADH-supported state 3 respiration and the disruption of the mitochondrial membrane potential.

Our study provides the first evidence that α-bisabolol is a pro-apoptotic agent for primary human acute leukemia cells.


Cavalieri E, Rigo A, Bonifacio M, Et Al. Pro-apoptotic activity of α-bisabolol in preclinical models of primary human acute leukemia cells. J Transl Med. 2011;9:45.

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