Cytotoxic effects of ellagitannins isolated from walnuts in human cancer cells

Vy Le, Debora Esposito, Mary H. Grace, Danny Ha, Anh Pham, Anthony Bortolazzo, Zackery Bevens, John Kim, Roy Okuda, Slavko Komarnytsky, Mary Ann Lila, Joseph Brandon White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Walnuts contain many bioactive components that may slow cancer growth. A previous report showed that a diet supplemented with walnuts decreased the tumor size formed by MDA-MB-231 human cancer cells injected into nude mice. However, the mechanism of action was never determined. We characterized the effects of a methanol extract prepared from walnuts on human MDA-MB-231, MCF7, and HeLa cells. The extract was cytotoxic to all cancer cells. We identified compounds from the methanol extract that induced this cytotoxicity. The predominant compounds were Tellimagrandin I and Tellimagrandin II, members of the ellagitannin family. We also show a walnut extract decreases the intracellular pH, depolarizes the mitochondrial membrane with release of cytochrome c and phosphatidylserine flipping. The antimitogenic effects of walnut extract were associated with a twofold reduction of mitochondria respiration. These results suggest impairment of mitochondrial function and apoptosis as relevant mechanism of anticancer effects of the walnut extract.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1304-1314
Number of pages11
JournalNutrition and Cancer
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 17 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Oncology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Cancer Research

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