Rhazya stricta Decne. is a medicinal plant that is widespread in Saudi Arabia and desert areas of the Arabian Peninsula. Its extract contains alkaloids, tannins, and flavonoids that are involved in different biological activities. The study aim was to evaluate the effects of Rhazya stricta plant extracts on the proliferation and differentiation of NTERA-2 (NT2) pluripotent embryonal carcinoma cells.
Soxhlet extraction was carried out using different solvents to extract stems, leaves and fruit parts of this plant. Cytotoxicity was evaluated by an MTS cell viability assay. The ability of the plant extract to induce cell differentiation was examined phenotypically using an inverted light microscope. The expression of pluripotency markers was investigated by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and immunocytochemistry. Phytochemical screening of chloroform stem extracts was carried out and a chromatographic fingerprint was generated using gas chromatography – mass spectrometry (GC-MS).
Chloroform stem extract induced differentiation of NT2 cells at 5 μg/ml, and the differentiated cells exhibited neurite formation. Following induction of differentiation, there was significant down-regulation of the pluripotency marker genes Oct4 and Sox2. In addition, the surface antigen pluripotency marker, TRA-1-60, was strongly down-regulated. Phytochemical analysis of the extract showed the presence of alkaloids and saponins. The chromatogram revealed the presence of fifteen compounds with different retention times.
Our results demonstrate for the first time that chloroform stem extract of R. stricta can induce neuronal differentiation of stem cells at an early stage and may contain potential therapeutic agent that can be used in neurodegenerative diseases.