Carrageenan is a sulfated polysaccharide that exists in red seaweeds recently shown to have anticancer properties. Previous findings show various effects of carrageenan suppressing tumor cell growth. One of the hallmarks of cancer is uncontrolled proliferation, a consequence of loss of normal cell-cycle control, that underlies tumor growth. Recently there is an increasing interest in potential anticancer agents that affect cell cycle in cancer cells. Thus, in this study we investigated the effects of carrageenan on the tumor cell cycle.
Using human cervical carcinoma cells (HeLa) cells as and human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC), the cytotoxic effects of kappa carrageenan (k-CO) and lambda carrageenan (λ-CO) at the concentrations of 250-2500 μg/mL were observed. Cell viability was determined using the MTT assay while cell death rates were determined using staining with calcein-AM/propidium iodide. Cell-cycle profile and progression were demonstrated with HeLa cells expressing FUCCI (fluorescence ubiquitination-based cell-cycle indicator) probes (HeLa-FUCCI).
Carrageenan had no significant effect on HUVEC (normal cells). In contrast both forms of carrageenan were cytotoxic towards HeLa cells (cancer cells). Furthermore, according to cell-cycle analysis with FUCCI cells, the cell cycle of HeLa cells was delayed in specific phases due to different carrageenan treatments.
Considering these results, it could be suggested that carrageenan affects the cell-cycle of HeLa cells not only by arresting the cell cycle in specific phases but also by delaying the time needed for the cell to progress through the cell cycle. Additionally, different types of carrageenans have different effects on cell cycle progression. This effect of carrageenan towards cancer cells could possibly be developed into a tumor cell-specific anticancer agent.