In vitro anticancer effect of venom from Cuban scorpion Rhopalurus junceus against a panel of human cancer cell lines

Research Article

J Venom Res 
(2013), Vol 4, 5-12

Published online: 12 June 2013

Full Text: (PDF ~2431kb) (HTML PMC3717326) (PubMed)

Alexis Díaz-García †* , Luis Morier-Díaz ‡, Yahima Frión-Herrera ¥ Hermis Rodríguez-Sánchez ‡, Yamira Caballero-Lorenzo ‡, Dianeya Mendoza-Llanes ‡, Yanelis Riquenes-Garlobo † and José A Fraga-Castro †

† Laboratories of Biopharmaceuticals and Chemistry Productions (LABIOFAM), Havana, Cuba

‡ Microbiology Department, Cell culture Laboratory, Tropical Medicine Institute “Pedro Kouri”, Havana, Cuba

¥ Food and Pharmacy Institute, Havana University, Cuba

*Correspondence to: Alexis Díaz-García, Email:, Tel: +537 6830326 or +537 6849662, Fax: +537 6830326

Received: 11 January 2013, Revised: 11 May 2013, Accepted: 11 June 2013

© Copyright The Authors


In Cuba the endemic species of scorpion Rhopalurus junceus has been used in traditional medicine for cancer treatment. However, there is scarce scientific evidence about its potential in cancer therapy. T he effect of a range of scorpion venom concentrations (0.1, 0.25, 0.5, 0.75 and 1mg/ml) against a panel of human tumor cell lines from epithelial (Hela, SiHa, Hep-2, NCI-H292, A549, MDA-MB-231, MDA-MB-468, HT-29), hematopoietic origins (U937, K562, Raji) and normal cells (MRC-5, MDCK, Vero) was determined by the MTT assay. Additionally, the effect of venom on tumor cell death was assayed by Fluorescence microscopy, RT-PCR and western blot. Only the epithelial cancer cells showed significant cell viability reduction, with medium cytotoxic concentration (IC50) ranging from 0.6-1mg/ml, in a concentration-dependent manner. There was no effect on either normal or hematopoietic tumor cells. Scorpion venom demonstrated to induce apoptosis in less sensitive tumor cells (Hela) as evidenced by chromatin condensation, over expression of p53 and bax mRNA, down expression of bcl-2 mRNA and increase of activated caspases 3, 8, 9. In most sensitive tumor cells (A549), scorpion venom induced necrosis evidenced by acridine orange/ethidium bromide fluorescent dyes and down-expression of apoptosis-related genes. We concluded the scorpion venom from R. junceus possessed a selective and differential toxicity against epithelial cancer cells. This is the first report related to biological effect of R. junceus venom against a panel of tumor cells lines. All these results make R. junceus venom as a promise natural product for cancer treatment.

KEYWORDS: Rhopalurus junceus , scorpion venom, cancer cells, apoptosis, necrosis