Achillea fragrantissima (Forssk.) Sch.Bip flower dichloromethane extract exerts anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic properties in human triple-negative breast cancer (MDA-MB-231) cells: In vitro and in silico studies.

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The aggressive triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a challenging disease due to the absence of tailored therapy. The search for new therapies involves intensive research focusing on natural sources. Achillea fragrantissima (A. fragrantissima) is a traditional medicine from the Middle East region. Various solvent extracts from different A. fragrantissima plant parts, including flowers, leaves, and roots, were tested on TNBC MDA-MB-231 cells. Using liquid chromatography, the fingerprinting revealed rich and diverse compositions for A. fragrantissima plant parts using polar to non-polar solvent extracts indicating possible differences in bioactivities. Using the CellTiter-Glo™ viability assay, the half-maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) values were determined for each extract and ranged from 32.4 to 161.7 µg/mL. The A. fragrantissima flower dichloromethane extract had the lowest mean IC50 value and was chosen for further investigation. Upon treatment with increasing A. fragrantissima flower dichloromethane extract concentrations, the MDA-MB-231 cells displayed, in a dose-dependent manner, enhanced morphological and biochemical hallmarks of apoptosis, including cell shrinkage, phosphatidylserine exposure, caspase activity, and mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization, assessed using phase-contrast microscopy, fluorescence-activated single-cell sorting analysis, Image-iT™ live caspase, and mitochondrial transition pore opening activity, respectively. Anticancer target prediction and molecular docking studies revealed the inhibitory activity of a few A. fragrantissima flower dichloromethane extract-derived metabolites against carbonic anhydrase IX, an enzyme reported for its anti-apoptotic properties. In conclusion, these findings suggest promising therapeutic values of the A. fragrantissima flower dichloromethane extract against TNBC development.