Rhopalurus junceus scorpion venom induces apoptosis in the triple negative human breast cancer cell line MDA-MB-231

Research Report

J Venom Res 
(2017), Vol 8, 9-13

Published online: 16 April 2017

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Alexis Díaz-García 1,*, Jenny Laura Ruiz-Fuentes 2, Hermis Rodríguez-Sánchez 2, José A Fraga Castro 1

1 Research Department, Laboratories of Biopharmaceuticals and Chemistries Productions (LABIOFAM), Havana, Cuba

Microbiology Department, Tropical Medicine Institute “Pedro Kouri”, Havana, Cuba

*Correspondence to: Email: alediaz@ipk.sld.cu, Tel: +53 7 6849658, Fax: +53 7 6830326

Received: 03 May 2016 | Revised: 12 April 2017 | Accepted: 13 April 2017

©Copyright The Author(s). First published by Library Publishing Media. This is an open access article, published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0). This license permits non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction of this article, provided the original work is appropriately acknowledged, with correct citation details.


Rhopalurus junceus scorpion venom has demonstrated high cytotoxic activity in epithelial cancer cells. In the present study, the effect of scorpion venom on cell viability and apoptosis was evaluated in the MDA‑MB‑231 human breast carcinoma cell line. Cell viability was analyzed using MTT assay. The cell death event was examined trough end-point RT-PCR to identify the expression of apoptosis‑related genes, fluorescent microscopy and mitochondrial membrane potential (∆Ψm) alteration. The results demonstrated that scorpion venom induced apoptosis in MDA‑MB‑231 cells in a time‑dependent manner. Besides, scorpion venom treatment also resulted in p53, bax, noxa, puma, caspase 3 and p21 over-expression, while the expression of bcl-2 and bcl-xl was down-regulated. Apoptosis was associated with depolarization of ∆Ψm. The overall effect indicates that the selective cytotoxic effect of the scorpion venom is associated with its apoptosis‑inducing effect through the mitochondrial pathway. Therefore, R. junceus scorpion venom may be an interesting natural extract for further investigation in breast cancer treatment strategies.

KEYWORDS: Rhopalurus junceus, scorpion venom, breast cancer, mitochondria, apoptosis