Selected terpenes from leaves of Ocimum basilicum L. induce hemoglobin accumulation in human K562 cells

Giordana F, Nicola M, Valentina C, Torricelli P, Beninati S, Tagliati F, Mischiati C
Fitoterapia, 2018


Re-expression of fetal hemoglobin (HbF) was proposed as a possible therapeutic strategy for β-haemoglobinopathies. Although several inducers of HbF were tested in clinical trials, only hydroxyurea (HU) received FDA approval. Despite it produced adequate HbF levels only in half of HU-treated SCD patients, and was ineffective at all in β-thalassemia patients, beneficial effects of this approach suggested to continue in this direction identifying further molecules capable of inducing HbF. We tested the potential of essential oil isolated from Ocimum basilicum L. leaves (ObEO) in inducing hemoglobin biosynthesis. Initially, dose-dependent effect and kinetics of hemoglobin accumulation in K562 cells after treatment with ObEO were evaluated. ObEO induced dose-dependent hemoglobin accumulation superior to hydroxyurea and rapamycin and a strongest γ-globin mRNA expression. Terpenes composition of ObEO was studied by GC-MS. Three main constituents, linalool, eugenol and eucalyptol, represented about 75% of total. A blend of these three terpenes fully replicated the ObEO’s biological effect, thus indicating that one of them or all together could be the active ingredients. When terpenes were tested individually, eugenol was the only one inducing stable hemoglobin accumulation, while eucalyptol and linalool produced only a small transient response. However, eugenol potential was strongly enhanced in the presence of eucalyptol and linalool, suggesting a synergistic effect on hemoglobin accumulation. By these results, the discovery of a new inducer and the interesting activity of a blend of major terpenes from ObOE on Hb accumulation could have positive fallouts on β-thalassemia and sickle cells anemia.


Giordana F, Nicola M, Valentina C, et al. Selected terpenes from leaves of Ocimum basilicum L. induce hemoglobin accumulation in human K562 cells. Fitoterapia. 2018 Feb 13. pii: S0367-326X(18)30053-4.

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