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Comparative Evaluation of Apoptosis Induction Using Needles, Bark, and Pollen Extracts and Essential Oils of Pinus eldarica in Lung Cancer Cells

Comparative Evaluation of Apoptosis Induction Using Needles, Bark, and Pollen Extracts and... applied sciences Article Comparative Evaluation of Apoptosis Induction Using Needles, Bark, and Pollen Extracts and Essential Oils of Pinus eldarica in Lung Cancer Cells 1 2 3 4 5 Tayyebeh Ghaffari , Solmaz Asnaashari , Ebrahim Irannejad , Abbas Delazar , Safar Farajnia , 6 7 5 , 6 , Joo-Hyun Hong , Changhyun Pang , Hamed Hamishehkar * and Ki-Hyun Kim * Drug Applied Research Center, Student Research Committee, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz P.O. Box 51656-65811, Iran; ghaffari.t@tbzmed.ac.ir Biotechnology Research Center, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz P.O. Box 51656-65811, Iran; asnaasharisolmaz@gmail.com Faculty Member of Academic Center for Education, Culture and Research (ACECR), Tabriz P.O. Box 51656-65811, Iran; irannejad1985@gmail.com Pharmaceutical Analysis Research Center, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz P.O. Box 51656-65811, Iran; delazara@tbzmed.ac.ir Drug Applied Research Center, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz P.O. Box 51656-65811, Iran; farajnia@gmail.com School of Pharmacy, Sungkyunkwan University, Suwon 16419, Korea; ehong@skku.edu School of Chemical Engineering, Sungkyunkwan University, Suwon 16419, Korea; chpang@skku.edu * Correspondence: hamishehkarh@tbzmed.ac.ir (H.H.); khkim83@skku.edu (K.-H.K.); Tel.: +98-41-3363311 (H.H.); +82-31-290-7700 (K.-H.K.) Citation: Ghaffari, T.; Asnaashari, S.; Abstract: Lung cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related mortality worldwide. Although Irannejad, E.; Delazar, A.; Farajnia, S.; effective clinical drugs for treating advanced stages are available, interest in alternative herbal Hong, J.-H.; Pang, C.; Hamishehkar, medicines has gained momentum. Herbal extracts are potent antioxidants that reportedly inhibit the H.; Kim, K.-H. Comparative Evaluation of Apoptosis Induction growth of various cancer cell lines. In the present study, we investigated the effects of essential oils and Using Needles, Bark, and Pollen hexane, methanolic, and aqueous extracts, obtained from various parts (bark, needles, and pollen) of Extracts and Essential Oils of Pinus Pinus eldarica against human lung cancer (A549) cells. First, the DPPH radical scavenging activities of eldarica in Lung Cancer Cells. Appl. P. eldarica extracts and essential oils were examined, which revealed that methanolic extracts presented Sci. 2021, 11, 5763. https://doi.org/ higher antioxidant activity than the other extracts and essential oils. Next, A549 cells were exposed 10.3390/app11135763 to various concentrations of the extracts and essential oils for 48 h. P. eldarica extracts/essential oil-treated lung cancer cells demonstrated a significant decrease in cell proliferation, along with Academic Editor: Monica Gallo an induction of apoptotic cell death, particularly, the pollen hexane extract, bark essential oil, and methanolic needle extract showed superior results, with IC values of 31.7, 17.9, and 0.3 g/mL, Received: 8 April 2021 respectively. In the cell cycle analysis, treatment of A549 cells with the methanolic needle and pollen Accepted: 9 June 2021 hexane extracts led to apoptosis and accumulation of cells in the sub-G1 phase. Further, exposure to Published: 22 June 2021 the bark essential oil and methanolic needle extract decreased the cell population in the G2/M phase. Notably, treatment with the pollen hexane extract, bark essential oil, and methanolic needle extract Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral resulted in caspase-3 activation, poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase cleavage, Bcl-2 downregulation, and with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affil- Bax and p53 regulation in A549 cells. Furthermore, these extracts and essential oils decreased the iations. migration, and colony formation of A549 cells. These findings provide experimental evidence for a new therapeutic effect of P. eldarica against human lung cancer and suggest P. eldarica as a potential chemopreventive natural resource for developing novel cancer therapeutics. Copyright: © 2021 by the authors. Keywords: Pinus eldarica; lung cancer; A549; apoptosis; caspase-3; PARP Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons 1. Introduction Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// Cancer is a term that encompasses a large family of diseases in which abnormal creativecommons.org/licenses/by/ cells undergo uncontrolled division and can spread to other tissues through the blood 4.0/). Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763. https://doi.org/10.3390/app11135763 https://www.mdpi.com/journal/applsci Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 2 of 17 and lymphatic systems. Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide and was reportedly responsible for 9.6 million deaths in 2018 [1]. Among these, lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer (11.6% of all cases), ranking first in terms of reported cancer deaths (18.4% of all cancer deaths) [1]. Throughout the history of human life, natural products derived from living organisms such as plants have been utilized as a primary source of medicinal agents [2]. Plants provide an extensive reservoir of therapeutic agents, representing a significant structural variety and remarkable chemical entities in modern medicine. Numerous studies have also reported that natural products derived from plants possess anticancer properties [3]. Gymnosperms are seed-bearing vascular plants, including cycads, ginkgo, yews, and conifers, in which the ovules or seeds are not enclosed within the ovary. Pinostrobin, pycnogenol, enzogenol, and pinocembrin are important anticancer agents of gymnosperm origin. Paclitaxel (taxol), isolated from the bark of yew trees (Taxus sp.), is reportedly cytotoxic to human prostate, ovarian, breast, and lung cancer cells [4,5]. The Pinus genus is the largest in the family Pinaceae [6]. These coniferous, evergreen, and typically mo- noecious trees are cultivated in most areas of the Northern Hemisphere [7]. Pinus eldarica, also named Tehran pine, is native to the South Caucasus between Europe and Asia and has been extensively grown in Iran. In traditional medicine, different parts of this plant (bark, needles, and nuts) have been used for the treatment of several conditions, including skin wounds, bronchial asthma, dermatitis, and skin irritation, and have reportedly shown antibacterial, antimutagenic, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, and glucose-lowering activi- ties [8–11]. Essential oils and extracts from pine needles and bark are rich in terpenoids such as caryophyllene, limonene, -pinene, and phenolic acids [12–14]. Pine extracts act as antioxidants by reacting with free radicals, thus protecting DNA against oxidative damage and apoptosis induced by hydroxyl radicals [15–17]. Phytochemical evidence has revealed that pine extracts contain catechin and taxifolin, two polyphenolic compounds that afford a potent anticancer product, Pycnogenol [8,18]. Apoptosis plays an important role in modulating immunological competency, development, and homeostasis through changes in cell morphology, chromatin condensation, DNA fragmentation, caspase-3 activation, Bax and p53 elevation, Bcl-2 reduction, and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) cleav- age [19]. For instance, a pinecone extract of Pinus koraiensis has revealed a beneficial effect in cancer prevention by inducing apoptosis in lung cancer cells through caspase-3 activa- tion [20]. Therefore, induction of apoptosis in cancer cells with plant-derived products can be employed as an effective strategy against tumor development. Several studies have reported the pharmacological properties and chemical diversity of P. eldarica extracts; however, the antineoplastic effects of P. eldarica against human lung cancer cells and their underlying mechanisms of action are yet to be reported. In the present study, we aimed to evaluate the antioxidant, cytotoxic, and proapoptotic effects of hexane, methanolic, and aqueous extracts, and essential oils, of various parts (bark, needles, and pollen) of P. eldarica on lung cancer (A549) cells, with the possible elucidation of cellular and molecular mechanisms. The results of this study could help pave the way for developing novel cancer therapeutic agents, opening new horizons for the application of natural products in lung cancer therapy. 2. Results 2.1. DPPH Radical Scavenging Assay The 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical scavenging assay was performed to determine the antioxidant activity of extracts and essential oils obtained from the various parts (bark, needle, and pollen) of P. eldarica (Figure 1). In the DPPH assay, a higher DPPH radical scavenging value indicates a higher antioxidant activity. The DPPH radical scavenging activity of methanolic extracts in all groups were significantly higher than that of other extracts and essential oils (p < 0.01). Among the active methanolic extracts, the methanolic bark extract (mean value 93.9%) demonstrated significantly higher antioxidant Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 3 of 18 Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 3 of 17 of other extracts and essential oils (p < 0.01). Among the active methanolic extracts, the methanolic bark extract (mean value 93.9%) demonstrated significantly higher antioxi- dant activity (p < 0.01) than the methanolic pollen extract (mean value 77.57%) and no activity (p < 0.01) than the methanolic pollen extract (mean value 77.57%) and no significant significant difference with methanolic needle extract (mean value 83.90%). difference with methanolic needle extract (mean value 83.90%). Figure 1. DPPH radical scavenging (%) of the four different extracts (hexane, methanolic, aqueous extracts, and essential Figure 1. DPPH radical scavenging (%) of the four different extracts (hexane, methanolic, aqueous extracts, and essential oils (each 1 mg/mL)) prepared from the Pinus eldarica bark, needles, and pollen. Data are expressed as mean  standard oils (each 1 mg/mL)) prepared from the Pinus eldarica bark, needles, and pollen. Data are expressed as mean ± standard deviation deviatio(SD), n (SDr )epr , reesentative presentativ of e o thr f tee hre independent e independen experiments. t experiments. 2.2. In Vitro Evaluation of Cytotoxic Effects of P. eldarica Extracts and Essential Oils on A549 2.2. In Vitro Evaluation of Cytotoxic Effects of P. eldarica Extracts and Essential Oils on A549 Lung Cancer Cells Lung Cancer Cells Cytotoxicity of P. eldarica extracts and essential oils on A549 lung cancer cells was Cytotoxicity of P. eldarica extracts and essential oils on A549 lung cancer cells was measured using the 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) measured using the 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay. We observed >80% cell death in A549 cells treated with 100 g/mL of all hexane assay. We observed >80% cell death in A549 cells treated with 100 μg/mL of all hexane extracts, the methanolic needle extract, and needle essential oil (Figure 2). The half-maximal extracts, the methanolic needle extract, and needle essential oil (Figure 2). The half-maxi- inhibitory concentration (IC ) of the methanolic needle extract at 0.3 g/mL revealed mal inhibitory concentration (IC50) of the methanolic needle extract at 0.3 μg/mL revealed its high toxicity, comparable with that of doxorubicin (DOX; a positive control). Among its high toxicity, comparable with that of doxorubicin (DOX; a positive control). Among pollen fractions, the hexane extract with an IC value of 31.7 g/mL was the most toxic; pollen fractions, the hexane extract with an IC50 value of 31.7 μg/mL was the most toxic; among bark fractions, the essential oil was the most toxic, with an IC value of 17.9 g/mL among bark fractions, the essential oil was the most toxic, with an IC50 value of 17.9 μg/mL (Table 1). Based on these findings, the methanolic needle extract, hexane pollen extract, (Table 1). Based on these findings, the methanolic needle extract, hexane pollen extract, and bark essential oil were selected for further investigation. and bark essential oil were selected for further investigation. Appl. Appl.Sci. Sci.2021 2021 , , 11 11 , ,5763 x FOR PEER REVIEW 4 4 of of 17 18 Figure 2. Cytotoxic activity of the four different fractions (hexane, methanolic, aqueous extracts, and Figure 2. Cytotoxic activity of the four different fractions (hexane, methanolic, aqueous extracts, and essential oils) prepared from Pinus eldarica (A: Bark, B: Needles, and C: Pollen) against the A549 cell essential oils) prepared from Pinus eldarica (A: Bark, B: Needles, and C: Pollen) against the A549 cell line after 48 h of treatment with various concentrations of essential oil, and methanolic, aqueous, line after 48 h of treatment with various concentrations of essential oil, and methanolic, aqueous, and hexane extracts. Data are expressed as mean  standard deviation (SD), representative of three and hexane extracts. Data are expressed as mean ± standard deviation (SD), representative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01 vs. control. independent experiments. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01 vs. control. 2.3. Evaluating Apoptosis Induction by DAPI Staining 2.3. Evaluating Apoptosis Induction by DAPI Staining 4 ,6-Diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) staining was performed to evaluate apoptosis 4’,6-Diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) staining was performed to evaluate apoptosis induction in the A549 cell line treated with P. eldarica extracts, essential oils, and DOX (as a induction in the A549 cell line treated with P. eldarica extracts, essential oils, and DOX (as positive control), based on IC values. The degree of nuclear fragmentation, as an indicator a positive control), based on IC50 values. The degree of nuclear fragmentation, as an indi- of apoptotic cells, is shown in Figure 3. Compared with untreated control cells, the treated cator of apoptotic cells, is shown in Figure 3. Compared with untreated control cells, the A549 cells revealed increased nuclear fragmentation based on the morphology assessment. treated A549 cells revealed increased nuclear fragmentation based on the morphology as- A large number of apoptotic cells with high DNA fragmentation were observed following sessment. A large number of apoptotic cells with high DNA fragmentation were observed treatment with the methanolic needle extract (Figure 3d). To show the apoptotic cell following treatment with the methanolic needle extract (Figure 3d). To show the apoptotic population, apoptosis analysis was performed by flow cytometry in the next step. cell population, apoptosis analysis was performed by flow cytometry in the next step. Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 5 of 18 Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 5 of 17 Table 1. IC50 values for different extracts (hexane, methanolic, aqueous extracts, and essential oils) Table 1. IC values for different extracts (hexane, methanolic, aqueous extracts, and essential oils) prepared from P. eldarica. Data are expressed as mean ± standard deviation (SD), representative of prepared from P. eldarica. Data are expressed as mean  standard deviation (SD), representative of three independent experiments. three independent experiments. Aqueous Hexane IC50 (µg/mL) Essential Oil Methanolic Extracts Methanolic Aqueous Hexane IC (g/mL) Essential Oil Extracts Extracts Extracts Extracts Extracts Pollen 88.9 ± 36 49.4 ± 24 174.5 ± 46.7 31.7 ± 7.2 Pollen 88.9  36 49.4  24 174.5  46.7 31.7  7.2 Needles 10.3 ± 4.1 0.3 ± 0.15 262.4 ± 43.87 8.7 ± 0.9 Needles 10.3  4.1 0.3  0.15 262.4  43.87 8.7  0.9 Bark 17.9 ± 7.2 209 ± 64 25.1 ± 6.8 18.0 ± 1.5 Bark 17.9  7.2 209  64 25.1  6.8 18.0  1.5 a The IC50 value represents the concentration of each compound that inhibit the growth of A549 The IC value represents the concentration of each compound that inhibit the growth of A549 cells by 50%. cells by 50%. Figure 3. Fluorescent microscopy of DAPI-stained A549 cells (magnification, ×100). Untreated con- Figure 3. Fluorescent microscopy of DAPI-stained A549 cells (magnification, 100). Untreated con- trol A549 (a), DAPI-stained A549 cells after 48 h of treatment with pollen hexane extract (31.7 trol A549 (a), DAPI-stained A549 cells after 48 h of treatment with pollen hexane extract (31.7 g/mL) µg/mL) (b), bark essential oil (17.9 µg/mL) (c), methanolic needle extract (0.3 µg/mL) (d), and dox- (b), bark essential oil (17.9 g/mL) (c), methanolic needle extract (0.3 g/mL) (d), and doxorubicin orubicin (e) (the arrows indicate apoptotic nuclei). (e) (the arrows indicate apoptotic nuclei). 2.4. Analysis of Apoptosis using Flow Cytometry 2.4. Analysis of Apoptosis Using Flow Cytometry A549 cells were exposed to IC50 concentrations of the hexane pollen extract, bark es- A549 cells were exposed to IC concentrations of the hexane pollen extract, bark sential oil, and methanolic needle extract for 48 h. Then, to investigate the rate of apoptosis essential oil, and methanolic needle extract for 48 h. Then, to investigate the rate of and necrosis, both treated and untreated control cells were stained with Annexin V/pro- apoptosis and necrosis, both treated and untreated control cells were stained with Annexin pidium iodide (PI) and analyzed through flow cytometry (Figure 4). Quantitative results V/propidium iodide (PI) and analyzed through flow cytometry (Figure 4). Quantitative of Annexin V/PI revealed increased amount of late apoptotic cells 23.4% and early apop- results of Annexin V/PI revealed increased amount of late apoptotic cells 23.4% and early totic cells 43.2% in the methanolic needle extract-treated group compared to control (p < apoptotic cells 43.2% in the methanolic needle extract-treated group compared to control 0.01). The hexane pollen extract-treated group showed considerably more viable cells (p < 0.01). The hexane pollen extract-treated group showed considerably more viable cells (70.1%) than the methanolic needle extract- and bark essential oil-treated groups, where (70.1%) than the methanolic needle extract- and bark essential oil-treated groups, where viable cells were reduced to 33.3% and 43.4%, respectively (p < 0.05). viable cells were reduced to 33.3% and 43.4%, respectively (p < 0.05). Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 6 of 17 Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 6 of 18 Figure 4. (A) Annexin V/propidium iodide (PI) staining was used to identify viable cells: Q4 (Annexin V, PI), early Figure 4. A. Annexin V/propidium iodide (PI) staining was used to identify viable cells: Q4 (An- apoptotic cells: Q3 (Annexin V+, PI), late apoptotic: Q2 (Annexin V+, PI+), and necrotic cells: Q1 (Annexin V, PI+). The nexin V-, PI-), early apoptotic cells: Q3 (Annexin V+, PI-), late apoptotic: Q2 (Annexin V+, PI+), and apoptotic effects of extracts and essential oil were determined by flow cytometry after 48 h in A549 cells, with untreated necrotic cells: Q1 (Annexin V-, PI+). The apoptotic effects of extracts and essential oil were deter- cells used as a control and cells treated with IC concentrations of pollen hexane extract, bark essential oil, and methanolic mined by flow cytometry after 48 h in A549 cells, with untreated cells used as a control and cells needle extract; (B) Quantitative results of apoptotic effects evaluated by the Annexin V/FITC assay. Data are expressed as treated with IC50 concentrations of pollen hexane extract, bark essential oil, and methanolic needle mean  standard deviation (SD), representative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01 vs. control. extract. B. Quantitative results of apoptotic effects evaluated by the Annexin V/FITC assay. Data are expressed as mean ± standard deviation (SD), representative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01 vs. control. 2.5. Scratch Migration Assay A scratch migration assay was performed to observe the anticancer effects of P. eldarica 2.5. Scratch Migration Assay extracts and essential oil on the migration of A549 cells. Wound areas in A549 cells after A scratch migration assay was performed to observe the anticancer effects of P. el- 24 and 48 h of treatment with the hexane pollen extract (31.7 g/mL), bark essential oil darica extracts and essential oil on the migration of A549 cells. Wound areas in A549 cells (17.9 g/mL), methanolic needle extract (0.3 g/mL), and the control group (no treatment) after 24 and 48 h of treatment with the hexane pollen extract (31.7 µg/mL), bark essential were measured (Figure 5A). The cells incubated with 0.3 g/mL of methanolic needle oil (17.9 µg/mL),extract methan inhibited olic need cell le ex migration tract (0.3 acr µg/ oss mLthe ), an initial d the scratch control zon grou e.p As (nshown o treat-in the migration ment) were meas rate ured chart (Figu (Figur re 5Ae ).5 T B), he after cells 24 incand ubat 48 edh, wi the th 0. wound 3 µg/mL area of in me the than pollen olic nhexane ee- extract- and dle extract inhibibark ted cel essential l migratoil-tr ion ac eated ross tcells he inwas itial s gr creater atch zon than e. that As sh of own cells inincubated the migra-with the control tion rate chart (Fmedium, igure 5B),indicating after 24 an that d 48these h, the extracts woundde arcr ea eased in the cell polmigration len hexane when extrac compar t- ed with the control group (p < 0.05). and bark essential oil-treated cells was greater than that of cells incubated with the control medium, indicating that these extracts decreased cell migration when compared with the control group (p < 0.05). Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 7 of 17 Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 7 of 18 Figure 5. (A) Inhibition of A549 cell migration by Pinus eldarica extracts after 0, 24, and 48 h of Figure 5. (A) Inhibition of A549 cell migration by Pinus eldarica extracts after 0, 24, and 48 h of treat- m tre eatment nt with b with ark e bark ssenessential tial oil (17 oil .9 (17.9 µg/m Lg/mL), ), pollen pollen hexan hexane e extrac extract t (31.7 ( µ 31.7 g/m Lg/mL), ), and m and ethan methanolic olic nee- dle extract (0.3 µg/mL). The distance between the two edges of the wound is shown in millimeters. needle extract (0.3 g/mL). The distance between the two edges of the wound is shown in millimeters; (B) Migration rate (µm/h) of three extracts. Data are expressed as mean ± standard deviation (SD), (B) Migration rate (m/h) of three extracts. Data are expressed as mean  standard deviation (SD), representative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 vs. control. representative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 vs. control. 2.6. Cell Cycle Analysis and Apoptosis Evaluation 2.6. Cell Cycle Analysis and Apoptosis Evaluation Treatment of A549 cells for 48 h with the methanolic needle extract and pollen hexane Treatment of A549 cells for 48 h with the methanolic needle extract and pollen hexane extract resulted in apoptosis induction and cell accumulation in the sub-G1 phase, which extract resulted in apoptosis induction and cell accumulation in the sub-G1 phase, which were comparable with those observed in the control group (Figure 6A,B). Exposure of were comparable with those observed in the control group (Figure 6A,B). Exposure of cancer cells to the bark essential oil and methanolic needle extract decreased the cell cancer cells to the bark essential oil and methanolic needle extract decreased the cell pop- population in the G2/M phase. ulation in the G2/M phase. Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 8 of 18 Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 8 of 17 Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 8 of 18 Figure 6. (A) Analysis of the cell cycle by flow cytometry in A549 cells after 48 h of treatment with Figure 6. (A) Analysis of the cell cycle by flow cytometry in A549 cells after 48 h of treatment with Figure 6. (A) Analysis of the cell cycle by flow cytometry in A549 cells after 48 h of treatment with bark essential oil (17.9 µg/mL), pollen hexane extract (31.7 µg/mL), and methanolic needle extract bark essential oil (17.9 g/mL), pollen hexane extract (31.7 g/mL), and methanolic needle extract bark essential oil (17.9 µg/mL), pollen hexane extract (31.7 µg/mL), and methanolic needle extract (0.3 µg/mL). (B) Cell cycle quantitative results. (0.3 µg/mL). (B) Cell cycle quantitative results. (0.3 g/mL); (B) Cell cycle quantitative results. 2.7. Western Blot Analysis: Effects of P. eldarica Extracts and Essential Oil on Bax/Bcl 2 Ratio 2.7. Western Blot Analysis: Effects of P. eldarica Extracts and Essential Oil on Bax/Bcl 2 Ratio 2.7. Western Blot Analysis: Effects of P. eldarica Extracts and Essential Oil on Bax/Bcl 2 Ratio Next, to investigate the effects of P. eldarica extracts and essential oil on the Bcl-2 fam- Next, to investigate the effects of P. eldarica extracts and essential oil on the Bcl- Next, to investigate the effects of P. eldarica extracts and essential oil on the Bcl-2 fam- ily in A549 cells, the expression of Bcl-2 (antiapoptotic) and Bax (proapoptotic) proteins 2 family in A549 cells, the expression of Bcl-2 (antiapoptotic) and Bax (proapoptotic) ily in A549 cells, the expression of Bcl-2 (antiapoptotic) and Bax (proapoptotic) proteins was detected via Western blot analysis, and the Bax/Bcl-2 ratio was determined (Figure 7). proteins was detected via Western blot analysis, and the Bax/Bcl-2 ratio was determined was detected via Western blot analysis, and the Bax/Bcl-2 ratio was determined (Figure 7). A549 cells were treated with the IC50 concentration of the pollen hexane extract (31.7 (Figure 7). A549 cells were treated with the IC concentration of the pollen hexane extract A549 cells were treated with the IC50 concentration of the pollen hexane extract (31.7 µg/mL), bark essential oil (17.9 µg/mL), methanolic needle extract (0.3 µg/mL), and con- (31.7 g/mL), bark essential oil (17.9 g/mL), methanolic needle extract (0.3 g/mL), and µg/mL), bark essential oil (17.9 µg/mL), methanolic needle extract (0.3 µg/mL), and con- contr trol g ol rou grp oup wiwith thouout t trea treatment tment fofor r 48 48 h,h, rev rev eal ealing ing aa ddecr ecrease ease iin n B Bcl-2 cl-2 an and d incr increase ease in in Bax Bax trol group without treatment for 48 h, revealing a decrease in Bcl-2 and increase in Bax protein expression levels (Figure 7A). The Bax/Bcl-2 ratio (Figure 7B) increased by 6.8- and protein expression levels (Figure 7A). The Bax/Bcl-2 ratio (Figure 7B) increased by 6.8- protein expression levels (Figure 7A). The Bax/Bcl-2 ratio (Figure 7B) increased by 6.8- and 27.2-times in the pollen hexane extract- and methanolic needle extract-treated cells, re- and 27.2-times in the pollen hexane extract- and methanolic needle extract-treated cells, 27.2-times in the pollen hexane extract- and methanolic needle extract-treated cells, re- rs espectively pectively, wh , when en comp compar ared ed wi with th th that at in in th the e con contr trol ol ccells. ells. spectively, when compared with that in the control cells. Figure Figure 7. 7. ( (A A) ) Descriptive Descriptive iimages mages o of f w western estern bl blot ot an analysis alysis oof f BBax ax an and d Bc Bcl-2 l-2 ex expr press ession ion rer lat elative ive toto β- Figure 7. (A) Descriptive images of western blot analysis of Bax and Bcl-2 expression relative to β- actin as an internal control. (B) Bax/Bcl-2 ratio in A549 cell line treated with IC50 concentrations of -actin as an internal control; (B) Bax/Bcl-2 ratio in A549 cell line treated with IC concentrations of actin as an internal control. (B) Bax/Bcl-2 ratio in A549 cell line treated with IC50 concentrations of P. eldarica extracts and essential oil for 48 h. a. Control group, b. Pollen hexane extract-treated group P. eldarica extracts and essential oil for 48 h. a. Control group, b. Pollen hexane extract-treated group P. eldarica extracts and essential oil for 48 h. a. Control group, b. Pollen hexane extract-treated group (31.7 µg/mL), c. Bark essential oil-treated group (17.9 µg/mL), d. Methanolic needle extract-treated (31.7 g/mL), c. Bark essential oil-treated group (17.9 g/mL), d. Methanolic needle extract-treated (31.7 µg/mL), c. Bark essential oil-treated group (17.9 µg/mL), d. Methanolic needle extract-treated group (0.3 µg/mL). Data are expressed as mean ± standard deviation (SD), representative of three g gr ro oup up ((0.3 0.3 µg g/mL). /mL). D Data ata are are e expr xpre essed ssed a as s m mean ean ± st standar andard d d deviation eviation ((SD), SD), re repr preesentative sentative o of f tthr hre ee e independent experiments. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01 vs. control. independent experiments. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01 vs. control. independent experiments. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01 vs. control. 2.8. Western Blot Analysis: Effects of P. eldarica Extracts and Essential Oil on Caspase-3 2.8. Western Blot Analysis: Effects of P. eldarica Extracts and Essential Oil on Caspase-3 2.8. Western Blot Analysis: Effects of P. eldarica Extracts and Essential Oil on Caspase-3 Activation Activationand andP PARP ARPCleavage Cleavage Activation and PARP Cleavage Treatment of A549 cells with IC50 concentrations of P. eldarica extracts and essential Treatment of A549 cells with IC concentrations of P. eldarica extracts and essential oil Treatment of A549 cells with IC50 concentrations of P. eldarica extracts and essential for oil 48 forh 48 significantly h significan incr tly eased increase caspase-3 d caspacleavage se-3 cleav (p ag < e 0.05) (p < 0 (Figur .05) (F e i8 g). ur P eARP 8). P is Athe RP most is the oil for 48 h significantly increased caspase-3 cleavage (p < 0.05) (Figure 8). PARP is the cr mos ucial t cpr ruotein cial pcleaved rotein cafter leavecaspase-3 d after cas activation. pase-3 actThe ivattr ioeatment n. The tof reat cells men with t of 0.3 cell s g/mL with 0. of3 most crucial protein cleaved after caspase-3 activation. The treatment of cells with 0.3 Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 9 of 18 Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 9 of 17 Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 9 of 18 µg/mL of the methanolic needle extract and 31.7 µg/mL of the pollen hexane extract in- µ dg u /c mL ed P of AtRP he c m leav ethag ane ol , iccomp neear dle e dex wi trta h c tt h an os d e 31 ob.s 7 eµ rv ge /d m i L n of the th ce on ptol rol len g rh ou ex p an (p e < ex 0t .05) rac.t in- the methanolic needle extract and 31.7 g/mL of the pollen hexane extract induced PARP duced PARP cleavage, compared with those observed in the control group (p < 0.05). cleavage, compared with those observed in the control group (p < 0.05). Figure 8. (A) Descriptive images of Western blot analysis of caspase-3 and PARP proteins. (B) Figure 8. (A) Descriptive images of Western blot analysis of caspase-3 and PARP proteins; (B) Caspase- F Caspa igure se 8.- 3 ( A an ) d D P eA scri RP p tp iv ro e te im inag lee vse ls of ( fW old est ce hrn an g bl eo tto an coal nt y rsi ol) s o in f A cas 549 pase cell -3 s an tred at e PA d w RP ith p I ro Ct 50 e in co s. n c(e B n ) - 3 and PARP protein levels (fold change to control) in A549 cells treated with IC concentration of tration of Pinus eldarica extracts and essential oil for 48 h. a. Control group, b. pollen hexane extract- Caspase-3 and PARP protein levels (fold change to control) in A549 cells treate50 d with IC 50 concen- Pinus treateeldarica d group extracts (31.7 µand g/mL essential ), c. barkoi ess l for ent48 ial h. oila. -tre Contr ated ol gro gr uoup, p (17b. .9 µ pollen g/mL)hexane , and d. extract-tr methanoeated lic nee- tration of Pinus eldarica extracts and essential oil for 48 h. a. Control group, b. pollen hexane extract- dle extract-treated group (0.3 µg/mL). PARP, poly (ADP) ribose polymerase. Data are expressed as treated group (31.7 µg/mL), c. bark essential oil-treated group (17.9 µg/mL), and d. methanolic nee- group (31.7 g/mL), c. bark essential oil-treated group (17.9 g/mL), and d. methanolic needle mean ± standard deviation (SD), representative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 vs. dle extract-treated group (0.3 µg/mL). PARP, poly (ADP) ribose polymerase. Data are expressed as extract-treated group (0.3 g/mL). PARP, poly (ADP) ribose polymerase. Data are expressed as mean control. mean ± standard deviation (SD), representative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 vs. standard deviation (SD), representative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 vs. control. control. 2.9. 2.9.W Western esternBlot BlotAnalysis: Analysis:Effects Effectsof ofP .Peldarica . eldaricaExtracts Extractsand and Essential EssentiaOil l Oion l onp53 p53 2.9. Western Blot Analysis: Effects of P. eldarica Extracts and Essential Oil on p53 Western blot analysis (Figure 9) revealed that protein expression levels of p53 were Western blot analysis (Figure 9) revealed that protein expression levels of p53 were significantly signi West ficane tr ly n higher h bilg ot h er an in al in gr y g soups i rs ou (F p is g tr u t eated r reat e 9) e d r with ewi veal th the ed th e pollen th p at ol p len rhexane ot h ei ex n an exextract e pr ees xts riac on (31.7 t (31 lev.el  7 s g/mL), µ o gf/ mL p53) bark ,we barre k essential oil (17.9 g/mL), and methanolic needle extract (0.3 g/mL) than in the con- sess ign en ifitcian al t oi ly l ( h 17. igh 9er µ g in /mL grou ), an psd t r me eat te hd an wi olt ih c n th ee e d p lol e ex len tr h ac ex t (0. an3 e µ ex gt/rm ac L t ) (31 than .7 µ in g /tmL he ) c,on ba tr rol k trol group. ess grou enp ti.al oil (17.9 µg/mL), and methanolic needle extract (0.3 µg/mL) than in the control group. Figure 9. (A) Descriptive images of western blot analysis of p53 expression relative to -actin as Figure 9. (A) Descriptive images of western blot analysis of p53 expression relative to β-actin as an an internal control; (B) p53 protein level (fold change to control) in A549 cells treated with IC internal control. (B) p53 protein level (fold change to control) in A549 cells treated with IC50 concen- Figure 9. (A) Descriptive images of western blot analysis of p53 expression relative to β-actin as 50 an concentration in trat tern ioal n o cf o n Pt.r of o ell. da P (.r B eldarica ic ) ap e 53 xt p ra extracts rc otts ein an le d and v ee ss l essential ( efn otld ial c h oan iloil fg oe for r t48 o48 c h oh. .n a. tr a. o C l) Contr o in nt A rool 549 l g gr ro c oup, e up lls, tb. b re . at pollen po ell de w n hexane it hh e x IC an 50e extract- c e ox ntc re ac nt -- treated group (31.7 µg/mL), c. bark essential oil-treated group (17.9 µg/mL), and d. methanolic nee- tr trat eated ion gr ofoup P. el(31.7 darica g/mL), extracts c. anbark d essessential ential oil oil-tr for 48 eated h. a.gr Coup ontro (17.9 l gro up g/mL), , b. poand llen h d. exmethanolic ane extract- td re le at e ex dt ra gro ctu -tp re (at 31 e.d 7 µ gro g/m up L ) (,0 c .3 . b µa g rk /m eL ss ).e D ntat ial a o are il-t re exat pre ed ss gerd o u ap s m (17 e.an 9 µ ± gst /m an Ld ), ard and d d e.v m iat eito hn a n (SD olic ) ,n re ee p -- needle extract-treated group (0.3 g/mL). Data are expressed as mean  standard deviation (SD), resentative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01 vs. control. dle extract-treated group (0.3 µg/mL). Data are expressed as mean ± standard deviation (SD), rep- representative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01 vs. control. resentative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01 vs. control. 2.10. Colony Formation Assay 2.10. Colony Formation Assay 2.10. Colony Formation Assay W We e investigated investigated the the colony colony formation formation ability ability of of A549 A549 cells cells in in the the pr pesence resence or or absence absence of P. eldarica extracts and essential oil for 14 days. The colony numbers were significantly of P.We elda ir niv ca est ex ig tra a tc ed ts t an he dc ess olon en yt ifo alr oi mat l for ion 14 ab d il ay ity s .of Th A e 549 colon cely ls n iu nmb the er ps r esen were c e sio grn ab ific san enc tle y reduced after treatment with IC concentrations of the pollen hexane extract, bark essential of red P.u e cled da raft icae e rx ttrre a at ctme s an nd t wi ess th en IC tial 50 c oi on l f cor en 14 trad tiay ons s. of Thte he col pol on len y n h uex mb an er e sex we trr ac e ts,i g bn ar ifi kc ess ant en ly- oil, redand uced methanolic after treatme needle nt wi extract th IC50(Figur concen e 10 tra A). tion Compar s of the ed pol with len h those exane inex the trac contr t, bar olkgr ess oup, en- tial oil, and methanolic needle extract (Figure 10A). Compared with those in the control the colony numbers in the methanolic needle extract-treated group were reduced by over tial oil, and methanolic needle extract (Figure 10A). Compared with those in the control group, the colony numbers in the methanolic needle extract-treated group were reduced 80% (Figure 10B). group, the colony numbers in the methanolic needle extract-treated group were reduced by over 80% (Figure 10B). by over 80% (Figure 10B). Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 10 of 17 Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 10 of 18 Figure 10. (A) Representative images of colony formation test in A549 cells with IC concentrations Figure 10. (A) Representative images of colony formation test in A549 cells with IC50 concentrations of P. eldarica extracts and essential oil for 14 days; (B) Mean value of colony numbers showing of P. eldarica extracts and essential oil for 14 days. (B) Mean value of colony numbers showing inhi- inhibition in treated groups. a. Control group, b. pollen hexane extract-treated group (31.7 g/mL), bition in treated groups. a. Control group, b. pollen hexane extract-treated group (31.7 µg/mL), c. c. bark essential oil-treated group (17.9 g/mL), and d. methanolic needle extract-treated group bark essential oil-treated group (17.9 µg/mL), and d. methanolic needle extract-treated group (0.3 (0.3 g/mL). Data are expressed as mean  standard deviation (SD), representative of three indepen- µg/mL). Data are expressed as mean ± standard deviation (SD), representative of three independent dent expeexperiments. riments. * p < *0.p0< 1 0.01 vs. co vs. ntro contr l. ol. 3. Discussion 3. Discussion P. eldarica needles and bark are rich in polyphenols, tannins, and terpenoids. Essential P. eldarica needles and bark are rich in polyphenols, tannins, and terpenoids. Essential oils and extracts of pine needles and bark have various physiological and pharmacolog- oils and extracts of pine needles and bark have various physiological and pharmacological ical activities. Extracts and essential oils of P. eldarica are known to possess antioxidant, activities. Extracts and essential oils of P. eldarica are known to possess antioxidant, anti- anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and apoptotic properties, correlating with their effects on inflammatory, anticancer, and apoptotic properties, correlating with their effects on cy- cyclooxygenase activity, nitric oxide synthesis, and apoptotic protein regulation [16,21,22]. clooxygenase activity, nitric oxide synthesis, and apoptotic protein regulation [16,21,22]. Previous studies show that needles essential oil of P. eldarica was rich in D-germacrene Previous studies show that needles essential oil of P. eldarica was rich in D-germacrene and main component in the bark was limonene. P. eldarica pollen essential oil was rich and main component in the bark was limonene. P. eldarica pollen essential oil was rich in in -pinene [12,23]. Iravani et al. demonstrated that bark extract of P. eldarica had high α-pinene [12,23]. Iravani et al. demonstrated that bark extract of P. eldarica had high amounts of polyphenolic compounds such as catechin, ferulic acid, and taxifolin [18]. amounts of polyphenolic compounds such as catechin, ferulic acid, and taxifolin [18]. In the study of Sarvmeili et al., MTT-based cytotoxic effects of essential oils and In the study of Sarvmeili et al., MTT-based cytotoxic effects of essential oils and hy- hydroalcoholic extracts of P. eldarica leaf and bark were evaluated on MCF-7 and HeLa droalcoholic extracts of P. eldarica leaf and bark were evaluated on MCF-7 and HeLa cells cells [24]. Since this plant is native to Iran, it was necessary to conduct this more extensive, [24]. Since this plant is native to Iran, it was necessary to conduct this more extensive, confirm the initial data, and identify molecular pathways. Therefore, we sequentially confirm the initial data, and identify molecular pathways. Therefore, we sequentially ex- extracted P. eldarica from hydrophobic to hydrophilic compounds by hexane, methanol, tracted P. eldarica from hydrophobic to hydrophilic compounds by hexane, methanol, and and water extracts and essential oils from three parts of P. eldarica. Then, the most common water extracts and essential oils from three parts of P. eldarica. Then, the most common lung cancer cell line, A549 was chosen and cellular and molecular mechanisms of extracts lung cancer cell line, A549 was chosen and cellular and molecular mechanisms of extracts and essential oils were evaluated. and essential oils were evaluated. The results showed that the scavenging effects of methanolic extracts were higher than The results showed that the scavenging effects of methanolic extracts were higher those of the other extracts and essential oils. These results indicate that methanolic extracts than those of the other extracts and essential oils. These results indicate that methanolic possess considerably higher antioxidant activities, and among them, the methanolic bark extracts possess considerably higher antioxidant activities, and among them, the meth- and needle extracts demonstrated high DPPH radical scavenging activity (93.9% and anolic bark and needle extracts demonstrated high DPPH radical scavenging activity 83.90%, respectively). The hydroalcoholic extract of P. massoniana bark had the DPPH (93.9% and 83.90%, respectively). The hydroalcoholic extract of P. massoniana bark had the radical scavenging activity in the study of Yu et al. [25]. According to Dudonne et al., these DPPH radical scavenging activity in the study of Yu et al. [25]. According to Dudonne et extracts are potential natural antioxidant sources [26]. al., these extracts are potential natural antioxidant sources [26]. Patient-derived cancer cell lines could be used for the study of the effects of drugs Patient-derived cancer cell lines could be used for the study of the effects of drugs on on cancer cells. Scientists use different methods, such as monolayer in vitro assays, 3D cancer cells. Scientists use different methods, such as monolayer in vitro assays, 3D cul- cultures, bioreactors, or in vivo evaluations with immunocompromised animals [27,28]. In tures, bioreactors, or in vivo evaluations with immunocompromised animals [27,28]. In the present study, we used a monolayer A549 cell line to evaluate the biological effects of essential the presen oils t s and tudy extracts. , we use For d a this mon purpose, olayer Athe 549cytotoxic cell line tef o fects evalu of atessential e the biol oils ogiand cal effe hexane, cts of essential oils and extracts. For this purpose, the cytotoxic effects of essential oils and hex- methanolic, and aqueous extracts of P. eldarica bark, needles, and pollen were evaluated ane, methanolic, and aqueous extracts of P. eldarica bark, needles, and pollen were evalu- using the A549 lung cancer cell line. Based on the MTT assay results, the cell mortality rate in atall ed u gr soups ing thincr e A549 eased lunin g ca an dose-dependent cer cell line. Based manner on the , and MTTthe assmethanolic ay results, th needle e cell mor extract, tality with rate an in al IC l grvalue oups i of nc0.3 rease g/mL, d in a pr do esented se-depen the den highest t mann cytotoxicity er, and the when methan compar olic nee ed dwith le ex- tract, with an IC50 value of 0.3 µg/mL, presented the highest cytotoxicity when compared Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 11 of 17 other groups. After 48 h of treatment with the pollen essential oil and extracts group, the pollen hexane extract (IC = 31.7 g/mL) was found to be more cytotoxic than the other employed treatments. Our findings, with those observed in previous reports on the effects of pine essential oils and extracts on cancer cell lines, revealing time- and dose- dependent effects. Reportedly, the cytotoxic effect of P. massoniana bark hydroalcoholic extract on a human breast cancer cell line was demonstrated at a higher IC value than 32.5 g/mL [25]. Compared to our results, the IC values of P. eldarica bark essential oil and hexane, aqueous, and methanolic extracts were 17.9, 18.0, 25.1, and 209 g/mL, respectively. P. eldarica essential oil and extracts have been shown to prevent the growth of several cancer cell lines, with the essential oil selectively inhibiting the growth of human breast cancer MCF-7 and HeLa cells, presenting IC values of 0.032 and 0.038 g/mL, respectively [24]. Herein, we observed that the pollen hexane extract, bark essential oil, and methanolic needle extract of P. eldarica significantly suppressed the migration of lung cancer cells at 24 and 48 h. The migration rates of experimental groups were calculated, with the methanolic needle extract revealing the lowest rate (1.87 m/h in 48 h). Recent studies have shown that pine extracts can inhibit lung cancer cell migration by reducing the expression of matrix metalloproteinases [29,30]. Matrix metalloproteinases are proteolytic enzymes that are secreted from tumor cells, involved in tumor metastasis by degrading the extracellular matrix. The result of the colony formation assay showed that colony numbers in treated groups decreased significantly compared to the control group (p < 0.01). Some studies suggest that natural products can inhibit colony formation by the change in tumor suppressor genes expression [31]. We explored the anticancer mechanisms of P. eldarica extracts and essential oils on A549 lung cancer cells. Apoptosis is a crucial pathway for reducing mutated or growing cancer cells [32]. Reportedly, some natural products have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cell lines by inducing apoptosis [33,34]. To evaluate the effects of P. eldarica extracts and essential oils on apoptosis, several experiments, including DAPI staining, Annexin V/PI staining, and cell cycle analysis, was performed. Morphological changes during apoptosis were observed by DAPI staining under a fluorescence microscope. This occurs by nucleic acid denaturation in the cytoplasm. DAPI binds to DNA and forms a complex that emits bluish-white fluorescence by ultraviolet light exciting, so small amounts of DNA can be visualized. Condensed and fragmented chromatin, as specific properties of apoptotic cells, were detected in all extract- and essential oil-treated groups, with a large number of apoptotic cells observed in the methanolic needle extract-treated group containing 0.3 g/mL of extract; these findings were in agreement with our results obtained following the Annexin V/PI test. In the Annexin V/PI assay, the apoptotic cell population of A549 cells was increased from 0.5% in the control group to 66.6%, 56.5%, and 29.7% in the methanolic needle extract-, bark essential oil-, and pollen hexane extract-treated groups, respectively. The methanolic needle extract-treated cells showed the highest population of apoptotic cells when compared with the other two groups. Thus, we conclude that this group showed suitable efficacy as a potential therapeutic option. In the cell cycle analysis, A549 cells treated with the methanolic needle extract (0.3 g/mL) and pollen hexane extract (31.7 g/mL) revealed cell accumulation in the sub-G1 phase, and the percentage of cells in the S phase was reduced in the methanolic needle extract-treated group. Ma et al. have investigated the cytotoxic effects of P. mas- soniana extract on HeLa cells, demonstrating that cell cycle arrest occurs in the sub-G1 phase [35]; this was in agreement with our results. Sub-G1 cells were non-apoptotic and viable. Some cells frequently returned and then proceeded to mitosis (hypodiploid and hyperdiploid cells), before arrested in the subsequent cell-cycle interphase. Arresting cells in sub-G1 inhibit cells entering mitosis [36]. Therefore, methanolic needle extract and pollen hexane extract caused post-mitotic arrest in proceeding cell cycles. This process was p53-dependent because when cells divided, p53 arrested the cell cycle in G1 [36]. Further- more, we observed increased p53 protein expression levels in experimental groups when Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 12 of 17 compared with those in the control group. p53 is a known tumor suppressor gene [37]. In several types of cancers, p53 is damaged owing to mutations, and p53 protein levels are decreased, leading to malignant tumors [38,39]. The cell cycle analysis showed that the accumulation of A549 cells in the S phase was observed after 48 h treatment with the bark essential oil (17.9 g/mL). Cell cycle arrest at the S phase may result from different mechanisms of action, for example, interfering with cell cycle progression and apoptosis induction, probably by reducing Bcl-2 protein expression. Mitochondria play a critical role in apoptosis, releasing proapoptotic proteins from their membranes into the cytosol. Bcl-2 family proteins are essential mitochondrial regulators of apoptosis [40]. The primary proapoptotic member of these proteins is Bax, which can initiate the release of cytochrome c and subsequent activation of caspase-3 and caspase-9. Bcl-2 acts as an antiapoptotic protein. Bcl-2 inhibits cytochrome c translocation and inhibits caspase-3 activation and apoptosis initiation [19]. High Bax protein expression levels correlate with low Bcl-2 expression levels, which would stimulate apoptosis. The ratio of Bax/Bcl2 expression levels is a diagnostic indicator of cancer [41]. In the present study, Western blot analysis was performed to analyze changes in protein expression of Bcl-2 and Bax in the pollen hexane extract, bark essential oil, methanolic needle extract, and control groups. Based on our Western blot analysis results, the ratio of Bax/Bcl-2 expression levels, as a predictor of apoptosis, increased 6.8- and 27.2-times in the pollen hexane extract- (p < 0.05) and methanolic needle extract-treated groups (p < 0.01) when compared with the control, respectively. In recent studies, pine needle essential oil reportedly downregulated Bcl-2 protein expression and induced apoptosis in oral squamous cell carcinoma [42]. This was in agreement with the results of the present study, which showed that the methanolic needle extract induced apoptosis at a concentration of 0.3 g/mL by altering Bcl-2 and Bax protein expression in A549 cells more efficiently than other evaluated extracts. In normal cells, caspases exist in the procaspase form with specific molecular weights. However, upon stimulation of cells with an apoptogenic agent, caspases are activated via proteolytic cleavage. After activation, caspases can cleave other proteins, such as PARP, leading to apoptosis [43]. A previous report has reported the ability of caspases to induce apoptosis in cancer cells following treatment with natural plant-derived extracts [20]. For instance, pine cone water extract reportedly activates caspase-3 and induces apoptosis in a lung cancer cell line [20]. We observed elevated levels of cleaved caspase-3 and cleaved PARP in A549 cells treated with IC concentrations of the pollen hexane extract, bark essential oil, and methanolic needle extract. These results suggest that activation of the caspase pathway is essential for inducing apoptosis in A549 cells following treatment with P. eldarica extracts. Our results showed that P. eldarica extracts mainly, methanolic needle extract, can prevent and treat cancer by various mechanisms. Cell cycle arrest, inhibition of cancer cell migration, and proliferation were some of the anticancer effects. Induction of apoptosis by downregulating of antiapoptotic gene products, such as Bcl-2, and stimulation of apoptotic protein expression such as Bax, caspases, and p53 lead to apoptosis, which was confirmed with the Annexin V/PI test. 4. Materials and Methods 4.1. Materials Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO, 99.9%), Roswell Park Memorial Institute 1640 growth medium (RPMI-1640), trypsin, fetal bovine serum (FBS), penicillin/streptomycin, MTT, DPPH, 4 ,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI), radioimmunoprecipitation assay (RIPA) buffer, Triton X-100, PI, and 96% ethanol were purchased from Sigma Aldrich Co. (St. Louis, MO, USA). DOX was purchased from Stadapharm GmbH (Laichingen, Germany). The Annexin V/PI apoptosis detection kit was purchased from Exbio Co. (Exbio, Czech Republic). Antibodies against Bcl-2 (sc-492), Bax (sc-7480), caspase-3 (sc-136219), p53 (sc-126), -actin (sc-47778), and PARP (sc-8007) antibodies were purchased from Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Inc. (Santa Cruz, CA). Phosphate-buffered saline (PBS), methanol, and Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 13 of 17 n-hexane were purchased from Merck (Darmstadt, Germany). Polyvinylidene difluoride (PVDF) membranes were purchased from Roche (Germany). The chemiluminescence detection kit was purchased from Pierce (Rockford, IL, USA). 4.2. Plant Material P. eldarica needles, pollen, and bark were collected in May and June 2018 from Tabriz district in Iran and identified (No.4036) by the Herbarium of Pharmacy Faculty, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences. All air-dried specimens were sequentially extracted in the order of hexane, methanol, and water by using the Soxhlet apparatus. Then, the extracts were concentrated using a rotary evaporator (Heidolph, Germany), dried using a freeze dryer (Christ Alpha1-4, Germany), and stored at 20 C until use. For essential oil preparation, 100 g of P. eldarica needles, bark, and pollen powders were hydro-distilled in a Clevenger device separately. The resulting essential oil was dried using anhydrous sodium sulfate and stored in a sealed vial at 4 C until further analysis. Different concentrations of the extracts and essential oil (0.001, 0.01, 0.1, 1, 10, and 100 g/mL) were prepared. DMSO was used as the solvent to prepare the stock solution (max 1% v/v). 4.3. DPPH Radical Scavenging Assay The DPPH radical scavenging activity was determined by adding 1 mL of the DPPH ethanolic solution (0.1 mM) to 1 mL of each extract (1 mg/mL), shaken, and incubated at 37 C for 30 min in the dark. Then, the absorbance of each extract was measured at 517 nm by ultraviolet–visible (UV–Vis) spectrophotometry (Ultrospec 2000, Pharmacia Biotech, Amersham, UK) [44]. DPPH ethanolic solution was used as a control, and 70% ethanol was used as a blank. The radical scavenging activity as a percentage of DPPH discoloration was calculated using the following equation: UV Absorbance of extract DPPH activity (%) =  100. UV Absorbance of control 4.4. Cell Culture The A549 cell line was obtained from the Pasteur Institute (Tehran, Iran). Cells were grown in RPMI-1640 supplemented with 10% FBS and 1% penicillin/streptomycin. The media was sterilized using 0.22-m filters and stored at 4 C before use. Cells were grown in RPMI-1640 medium at 37 C in a 5% CO incubator. 4.5. MTT-Based Cytotoxicity Assay The cytotoxicity of the essential oil and different extracts of P. eldarica against the A549 cell line was determined by employing a rapid colorimetric assay using MTT [45–49]. In this assay, soluble MTT is metabolized by the mitochondrial enzyme activity of viable cells into an insoluble formazan dye product. Subsequently, formazan was dissolved in DMSO and measured spectrophotometrically at 540 nm. Briefly, 180 L of a cell suspension (5  10 cells/mL of medium) was seeded in 96-well microplates and incubated for 24 h (37 C, 5% CO humidified air). Then, prepared concentrations of essential oil and extracts ranging from 0 to 100 g/mL were added to each well. The plates were incubated for another 48 h under the same conditions. DOX and 1% DMSO were used as positive and negative controls, respectively. To assess cell survival, 20 L of MTT solution (5 mg/mL in PBS) was added to each well, and the plates were incubated at 37 C for 3 h. Then, the old media containing MTT was removed and 150 L DMSO was added to each well and pipetted to dissolve the formed formazan crystals. Absorbance was measured using an ELISA plate reader (Awareness Technology, Inc., Palm City, FL, USA) at 540 nm. Each extract concentration was repeated three times, and cell survival in the negative control was assumed to be 100%. The IC value was calculated using GraphPad Prism software version 6.0. Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 14 of 17 4.6. DAPI Staining DAPI staining was performed to evaluate nuclei fragmentation. A549 cells (2  10 cells/well) were seeded into 6-well plates. After incubation, cultured lung cancer cells at 70% confluence were treated with IC concentrations of extracts and essential oil for 48 h. Next, the cells were washed with PBS, fixed with paraformaldehyde (4%) for 20 min and permeabilized with 0.15% Triton X-100 for 15 min. Subsequently, the cells were stained in the dark with 0.1% DAPI for 15 min, washed with PBS, and observed by fluorescence microscopy (Olympus, Seoul, Korea) [50]. 4.7. Annexin V/PI Flow Cytometry A549 cells (2  10 cells/well) were seeded in 6-well plates and incubated in RPMI- 1640 medium for 48 h. Subsequently, the IC concentration of the extracts and essential oil was added to the wells and incubated for 48 h. Then, the cells were trypsinized and washed with cold PBS, supernatants were removed, and 100 L binding buffer was added at ice- cold temperature. Finally, lung cancer cells were stained with Pl and Annexin V-fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC) according to the manufacturer ’s instructions. A FACSCalibur flow cytometer (BD Biosciences, San Jose, CA, USA) was used to analyze apoptosis rate. The data were analyzed using the FlowJo software package (Treestar, Inc., San Carlos, CA, USA) [51]. 4.8. Scratch Migration Assay To examine the migration of A549 cells in two-dimensional monolayers, cells were seeded in 6-well plates and incubated in RPMI-1640 medium. After the cells reach to confluent monolayer (at least 70% confluency), a thin linear scratch “wound” was created using a 200 L pipette tip. The monolayers were then washed with PBS to remove detached cells and treated with IC concentrations of extracts and essential oil; images were captured at 0, 24, and 48 h after treatment with a digital camera connected to a bright-field microscope. Wound width was calculated as the distance between two edges of the scratch using CorelDRAW software [52]. The migration rate was calculated using the following equation: initial wound width (m) final wound width(m) Migration rate (m/h) = duration of migration (h) 4.9. Cell Cycle Analysis A549 cells (3  10 cells/mL) were seeded in 6-well plates. After 24 h, cells were treated with IC concentrations of extracts and essential oil. Cells were trypsinized after 48 h and fixed in ice-cold 70% ethanol at 4 C for 2 h. A549 cells were centrifuged and washed with PBS, treated with 1 mL PI master mix containing 950 L PBS, 40 L PI, and 10 L RNase A to stain cellular DNA, incubated at room temperature for 30 min, and analyzed using a FACSCalibur flow cytometer (BD Biosciences, San Jose, CA, USA) [50]. 4.10. Western Blot Analysis Expression of Bcl-2, Bax, caspase-3, p53, and PARP in lung cancer cells was analyzed by Western blot analysis, as described previously [33,34,53]. A549 cells were seeded in 6-well plates. On reaching the appropriate confluency, the cells were treated with IC concentration of extracts and essential oil for 48 h. Next, the cells were trypsinized and washed with ice-cold PBS. For cell lysis, RIPA buffer (1% NP-40, 1% sodium deoxycholate, 0.1% SDS, 1 mM EDTA, 150 mM NaCl, and 50 mM Tris-HCl, pH 7.8) containing a protease inhibitor cocktail was used. After centrifugation at 12,000 g for 10 min at 4 C, the super- natant containing proteins was collected and stored at 80 C. Proteins were separated by SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and electro-transferred to polyvinylidene fluoride membranes. Membranes were incubated in Tris-buffered saline containing 5% non-fat dry milk for 2 h to block nonspecific binding. Membranes were incubated overnight at 4 C with anti Bcl-2 (1:500, sc-492), Bax (1:500, sc-7480), caspase-3 (1:500, sc-136219), p53 (1:500, Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 15 of 17 sc-126), -actin (1:500, sc-47778), and PARP (1:500, sc-8007) antibodies for 16 h. Finally, membranes were incubated with secondary antibody (anti-rabbit; 1:1000) for 75 min in the antibody buffer (5% BSA, 1X TBS, 0.1% Tween-20). For visualization of the blots, a chemi- luminescence (ECL) detection kit was used just before autoradiography. Band intensities were quantified by densitometry using the ImageJ software (U.S. National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA). 4.11. Colony Formation Assay The colony formation assay was performed as previously described [54]. A549 cells were seeded (1000 cells/well) in 6-well plates in triplicate in RPMI-1640 medium. After 24 h, the medium was removed and replaced with the IC concentration of respective extracts and essential oil. The group with no added treatment was considered as the control. After 14 days, the colonies were stained with 0.5% crystal violet solution containing 25% methanol for 15 min at 37 C and washed with excess dye. The colony numbers were counted using the ImageJ software. 4.12. Statistical Analysis The data were processed using GraphPad Prism version 6.0 (GraphPad Software, Inc., La Jolla, CA, USA) for averages and standard deviation (SD) by performing one-way and two-way analyses of variance. Data are presented as mean values  SD, and p-values less than 0.05 were considered significant. 5. Conclusions In the present study, extracts and essential oils of various parts of P. eldarica revealed robust antioxidant activity. Especially, the pollen hexane extract, bark essential oil, and methanolic needle extract of P. eldarica inhibited the proliferation and cell cycle progression in A549 lung cancer cells, mainly through Bcl-2 downregulation, stimulation of p53 expres- sion, and induction of apoptosis in a caspase-dependent manner. Furthermore, the pollen hexane extract, bark essential oil, and methanolic needle extract suppressed the migration, and colony formation of lung cancer cells. Therefore, our findings suggest that P. eldarica extracts and essential oils, especially the methanolic extract of P. eldarica needles (the most active extract), can be potentially developed as chemopreventive natural resources for cancer prevention and treatment, with further investigations warranted to determine the main components responsible for anticancer activities. Author Contributions: Conceptualization, H.H. and K.-H.K.; Formal Analysis, T.G., S.A., E.I., A.D., S.F., J.-H.H. and C.P.; Investigation, T.G., S.A., A.D. and S.F.; Resources, H.H.; Writing—Original Draft Preparation, T.G., H.H. and K.-H.K.; Writing—Review and Editing, T.G. and K.-H.K.; Project Administration, H.H. and K.-H.K.; Funding Acquisition, H.H. and K.-H.K. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript. 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Metformin inhibits breast cancer cell growth, colony formation and induces cell cycle arrest in vitro. Cell Cycle 2009, 8, 909–915. [CrossRef] [PubMed] http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Applied Sciences Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute

Comparative Evaluation of Apoptosis Induction Using Needles, Bark, and Pollen Extracts and Essential Oils of Pinus eldarica in Lung Cancer Cells

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applied sciences Article Comparative Evaluation of Apoptosis Induction Using Needles, Bark, and Pollen Extracts and Essential Oils of Pinus eldarica in Lung Cancer Cells 1 2 3 4 5 Tayyebeh Ghaffari , Solmaz Asnaashari , Ebrahim Irannejad , Abbas Delazar , Safar Farajnia , 6 7 5 , 6 , Joo-Hyun Hong , Changhyun Pang , Hamed Hamishehkar * and Ki-Hyun Kim * Drug Applied Research Center, Student Research Committee, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz P.O. Box 51656-65811, Iran; ghaffari.t@tbzmed.ac.ir Biotechnology Research Center, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz P.O. Box 51656-65811, Iran; asnaasharisolmaz@gmail.com Faculty Member of Academic Center for Education, Culture and Research (ACECR), Tabriz P.O. Box 51656-65811, Iran; irannejad1985@gmail.com Pharmaceutical Analysis Research Center, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz P.O. Box 51656-65811, Iran; delazara@tbzmed.ac.ir Drug Applied Research Center, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz P.O. Box 51656-65811, Iran; farajnia@gmail.com School of Pharmacy, Sungkyunkwan University, Suwon 16419, Korea; ehong@skku.edu School of Chemical Engineering, Sungkyunkwan University, Suwon 16419, Korea; chpang@skku.edu * Correspondence: hamishehkarh@tbzmed.ac.ir (H.H.); khkim83@skku.edu (K.-H.K.); Tel.: +98-41-3363311 (H.H.); +82-31-290-7700 (K.-H.K.) Citation: Ghaffari, T.; Asnaashari, S.; Abstract: Lung cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related mortality worldwide. Although Irannejad, E.; Delazar, A.; Farajnia, S.; effective clinical drugs for treating advanced stages are available, interest in alternative herbal Hong, J.-H.; Pang, C.; Hamishehkar, medicines has gained momentum. Herbal extracts are potent antioxidants that reportedly inhibit the H.; Kim, K.-H. Comparative Evaluation of Apoptosis Induction growth of various cancer cell lines. In the present study, we investigated the effects of essential oils and Using Needles, Bark, and Pollen hexane, methanolic, and aqueous extracts, obtained from various parts (bark, needles, and pollen) of Extracts and Essential Oils of Pinus Pinus eldarica against human lung cancer (A549) cells. First, the DPPH radical scavenging activities of eldarica in Lung Cancer Cells. Appl. P. eldarica extracts and essential oils were examined, which revealed that methanolic extracts presented Sci. 2021, 11, 5763. https://doi.org/ higher antioxidant activity than the other extracts and essential oils. Next, A549 cells were exposed 10.3390/app11135763 to various concentrations of the extracts and essential oils for 48 h. P. eldarica extracts/essential oil-treated lung cancer cells demonstrated a significant decrease in cell proliferation, along with Academic Editor: Monica Gallo an induction of apoptotic cell death, particularly, the pollen hexane extract, bark essential oil, and methanolic needle extract showed superior results, with IC values of 31.7, 17.9, and 0.3 g/mL, Received: 8 April 2021 respectively. In the cell cycle analysis, treatment of A549 cells with the methanolic needle and pollen Accepted: 9 June 2021 hexane extracts led to apoptosis and accumulation of cells in the sub-G1 phase. Further, exposure to Published: 22 June 2021 the bark essential oil and methanolic needle extract decreased the cell population in the G2/M phase. Notably, treatment with the pollen hexane extract, bark essential oil, and methanolic needle extract Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral resulted in caspase-3 activation, poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase cleavage, Bcl-2 downregulation, and with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affil- Bax and p53 regulation in A549 cells. Furthermore, these extracts and essential oils decreased the iations. migration, and colony formation of A549 cells. These findings provide experimental evidence for a new therapeutic effect of P. eldarica against human lung cancer and suggest P. eldarica as a potential chemopreventive natural resource for developing novel cancer therapeutics. Copyright: © 2021 by the authors. Keywords: Pinus eldarica; lung cancer; A549; apoptosis; caspase-3; PARP Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons 1. Introduction Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// Cancer is a term that encompasses a large family of diseases in which abnormal creativecommons.org/licenses/by/ cells undergo uncontrolled division and can spread to other tissues through the blood 4.0/). Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763. https://doi.org/10.3390/app11135763 https://www.mdpi.com/journal/applsci Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 2 of 17 and lymphatic systems. Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide and was reportedly responsible for 9.6 million deaths in 2018 [1]. Among these, lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer (11.6% of all cases), ranking first in terms of reported cancer deaths (18.4% of all cancer deaths) [1]. Throughout the history of human life, natural products derived from living organisms such as plants have been utilized as a primary source of medicinal agents [2]. Plants provide an extensive reservoir of therapeutic agents, representing a significant structural variety and remarkable chemical entities in modern medicine. Numerous studies have also reported that natural products derived from plants possess anticancer properties [3]. Gymnosperms are seed-bearing vascular plants, including cycads, ginkgo, yews, and conifers, in which the ovules or seeds are not enclosed within the ovary. Pinostrobin, pycnogenol, enzogenol, and pinocembrin are important anticancer agents of gymnosperm origin. Paclitaxel (taxol), isolated from the bark of yew trees (Taxus sp.), is reportedly cytotoxic to human prostate, ovarian, breast, and lung cancer cells [4,5]. The Pinus genus is the largest in the family Pinaceae [6]. These coniferous, evergreen, and typically mo- noecious trees are cultivated in most areas of the Northern Hemisphere [7]. Pinus eldarica, also named Tehran pine, is native to the South Caucasus between Europe and Asia and has been extensively grown in Iran. In traditional medicine, different parts of this plant (bark, needles, and nuts) have been used for the treatment of several conditions, including skin wounds, bronchial asthma, dermatitis, and skin irritation, and have reportedly shown antibacterial, antimutagenic, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, and glucose-lowering activi- ties [8–11]. Essential oils and extracts from pine needles and bark are rich in terpenoids such as caryophyllene, limonene, -pinene, and phenolic acids [12–14]. Pine extracts act as antioxidants by reacting with free radicals, thus protecting DNA against oxidative damage and apoptosis induced by hydroxyl radicals [15–17]. Phytochemical evidence has revealed that pine extracts contain catechin and taxifolin, two polyphenolic compounds that afford a potent anticancer product, Pycnogenol [8,18]. Apoptosis plays an important role in modulating immunological competency, development, and homeostasis through changes in cell morphology, chromatin condensation, DNA fragmentation, caspase-3 activation, Bax and p53 elevation, Bcl-2 reduction, and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) cleav- age [19]. For instance, a pinecone extract of Pinus koraiensis has revealed a beneficial effect in cancer prevention by inducing apoptosis in lung cancer cells through caspase-3 activa- tion [20]. Therefore, induction of apoptosis in cancer cells with plant-derived products can be employed as an effective strategy against tumor development. Several studies have reported the pharmacological properties and chemical diversity of P. eldarica extracts; however, the antineoplastic effects of P. eldarica against human lung cancer cells and their underlying mechanisms of action are yet to be reported. In the present study, we aimed to evaluate the antioxidant, cytotoxic, and proapoptotic effects of hexane, methanolic, and aqueous extracts, and essential oils, of various parts (bark, needles, and pollen) of P. eldarica on lung cancer (A549) cells, with the possible elucidation of cellular and molecular mechanisms. The results of this study could help pave the way for developing novel cancer therapeutic agents, opening new horizons for the application of natural products in lung cancer therapy. 2. Results 2.1. DPPH Radical Scavenging Assay The 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical scavenging assay was performed to determine the antioxidant activity of extracts and essential oils obtained from the various parts (bark, needle, and pollen) of P. eldarica (Figure 1). In the DPPH assay, a higher DPPH radical scavenging value indicates a higher antioxidant activity. The DPPH radical scavenging activity of methanolic extracts in all groups were significantly higher than that of other extracts and essential oils (p < 0.01). Among the active methanolic extracts, the methanolic bark extract (mean value 93.9%) demonstrated significantly higher antioxidant Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 3 of 18 Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 3 of 17 of other extracts and essential oils (p < 0.01). Among the active methanolic extracts, the methanolic bark extract (mean value 93.9%) demonstrated significantly higher antioxi- dant activity (p < 0.01) than the methanolic pollen extract (mean value 77.57%) and no activity (p < 0.01) than the methanolic pollen extract (mean value 77.57%) and no significant significant difference with methanolic needle extract (mean value 83.90%). difference with methanolic needle extract (mean value 83.90%). Figure 1. DPPH radical scavenging (%) of the four different extracts (hexane, methanolic, aqueous extracts, and essential Figure 1. DPPH radical scavenging (%) of the four different extracts (hexane, methanolic, aqueous extracts, and essential oils (each 1 mg/mL)) prepared from the Pinus eldarica bark, needles, and pollen. Data are expressed as mean  standard oils (each 1 mg/mL)) prepared from the Pinus eldarica bark, needles, and pollen. Data are expressed as mean ± standard deviation deviatio(SD), n (SDr )epr , reesentative presentativ of e o thr f tee hre independent e independen experiments. t experiments. 2.2. In Vitro Evaluation of Cytotoxic Effects of P. eldarica Extracts and Essential Oils on A549 2.2. In Vitro Evaluation of Cytotoxic Effects of P. eldarica Extracts and Essential Oils on A549 Lung Cancer Cells Lung Cancer Cells Cytotoxicity of P. eldarica extracts and essential oils on A549 lung cancer cells was Cytotoxicity of P. eldarica extracts and essential oils on A549 lung cancer cells was measured using the 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) measured using the 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay. We observed >80% cell death in A549 cells treated with 100 g/mL of all hexane assay. We observed >80% cell death in A549 cells treated with 100 μg/mL of all hexane extracts, the methanolic needle extract, and needle essential oil (Figure 2). The half-maximal extracts, the methanolic needle extract, and needle essential oil (Figure 2). The half-maxi- inhibitory concentration (IC ) of the methanolic needle extract at 0.3 g/mL revealed mal inhibitory concentration (IC50) of the methanolic needle extract at 0.3 μg/mL revealed its high toxicity, comparable with that of doxorubicin (DOX; a positive control). Among its high toxicity, comparable with that of doxorubicin (DOX; a positive control). Among pollen fractions, the hexane extract with an IC value of 31.7 g/mL was the most toxic; pollen fractions, the hexane extract with an IC50 value of 31.7 μg/mL was the most toxic; among bark fractions, the essential oil was the most toxic, with an IC value of 17.9 g/mL among bark fractions, the essential oil was the most toxic, with an IC50 value of 17.9 μg/mL (Table 1). Based on these findings, the methanolic needle extract, hexane pollen extract, (Table 1). Based on these findings, the methanolic needle extract, hexane pollen extract, and bark essential oil were selected for further investigation. and bark essential oil were selected for further investigation. Appl. Appl.Sci. Sci.2021 2021 , , 11 11 , ,5763 x FOR PEER REVIEW 4 4 of of 17 18 Figure 2. Cytotoxic activity of the four different fractions (hexane, methanolic, aqueous extracts, and Figure 2. Cytotoxic activity of the four different fractions (hexane, methanolic, aqueous extracts, and essential oils) prepared from Pinus eldarica (A: Bark, B: Needles, and C: Pollen) against the A549 cell essential oils) prepared from Pinus eldarica (A: Bark, B: Needles, and C: Pollen) against the A549 cell line after 48 h of treatment with various concentrations of essential oil, and methanolic, aqueous, line after 48 h of treatment with various concentrations of essential oil, and methanolic, aqueous, and hexane extracts. Data are expressed as mean  standard deviation (SD), representative of three and hexane extracts. Data are expressed as mean ± standard deviation (SD), representative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01 vs. control. independent experiments. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01 vs. control. 2.3. Evaluating Apoptosis Induction by DAPI Staining 2.3. Evaluating Apoptosis Induction by DAPI Staining 4 ,6-Diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) staining was performed to evaluate apoptosis 4’,6-Diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) staining was performed to evaluate apoptosis induction in the A549 cell line treated with P. eldarica extracts, essential oils, and DOX (as a induction in the A549 cell line treated with P. eldarica extracts, essential oils, and DOX (as positive control), based on IC values. The degree of nuclear fragmentation, as an indicator a positive control), based on IC50 values. The degree of nuclear fragmentation, as an indi- of apoptotic cells, is shown in Figure 3. Compared with untreated control cells, the treated cator of apoptotic cells, is shown in Figure 3. Compared with untreated control cells, the A549 cells revealed increased nuclear fragmentation based on the morphology assessment. treated A549 cells revealed increased nuclear fragmentation based on the morphology as- A large number of apoptotic cells with high DNA fragmentation were observed following sessment. A large number of apoptotic cells with high DNA fragmentation were observed treatment with the methanolic needle extract (Figure 3d). To show the apoptotic cell following treatment with the methanolic needle extract (Figure 3d). To show the apoptotic population, apoptosis analysis was performed by flow cytometry in the next step. cell population, apoptosis analysis was performed by flow cytometry in the next step. Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 5 of 18 Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 5 of 17 Table 1. IC50 values for different extracts (hexane, methanolic, aqueous extracts, and essential oils) Table 1. IC values for different extracts (hexane, methanolic, aqueous extracts, and essential oils) prepared from P. eldarica. Data are expressed as mean ± standard deviation (SD), representative of prepared from P. eldarica. Data are expressed as mean  standard deviation (SD), representative of three independent experiments. three independent experiments. Aqueous Hexane IC50 (µg/mL) Essential Oil Methanolic Extracts Methanolic Aqueous Hexane IC (g/mL) Essential Oil Extracts Extracts Extracts Extracts Extracts Pollen 88.9 ± 36 49.4 ± 24 174.5 ± 46.7 31.7 ± 7.2 Pollen 88.9  36 49.4  24 174.5  46.7 31.7  7.2 Needles 10.3 ± 4.1 0.3 ± 0.15 262.4 ± 43.87 8.7 ± 0.9 Needles 10.3  4.1 0.3  0.15 262.4  43.87 8.7  0.9 Bark 17.9 ± 7.2 209 ± 64 25.1 ± 6.8 18.0 ± 1.5 Bark 17.9  7.2 209  64 25.1  6.8 18.0  1.5 a The IC50 value represents the concentration of each compound that inhibit the growth of A549 The IC value represents the concentration of each compound that inhibit the growth of A549 cells by 50%. cells by 50%. Figure 3. Fluorescent microscopy of DAPI-stained A549 cells (magnification, ×100). Untreated con- Figure 3. Fluorescent microscopy of DAPI-stained A549 cells (magnification, 100). Untreated con- trol A549 (a), DAPI-stained A549 cells after 48 h of treatment with pollen hexane extract (31.7 trol A549 (a), DAPI-stained A549 cells after 48 h of treatment with pollen hexane extract (31.7 g/mL) µg/mL) (b), bark essential oil (17.9 µg/mL) (c), methanolic needle extract (0.3 µg/mL) (d), and dox- (b), bark essential oil (17.9 g/mL) (c), methanolic needle extract (0.3 g/mL) (d), and doxorubicin orubicin (e) (the arrows indicate apoptotic nuclei). (e) (the arrows indicate apoptotic nuclei). 2.4. Analysis of Apoptosis using Flow Cytometry 2.4. Analysis of Apoptosis Using Flow Cytometry A549 cells were exposed to IC50 concentrations of the hexane pollen extract, bark es- A549 cells were exposed to IC concentrations of the hexane pollen extract, bark sential oil, and methanolic needle extract for 48 h. Then, to investigate the rate of apoptosis essential oil, and methanolic needle extract for 48 h. Then, to investigate the rate of and necrosis, both treated and untreated control cells were stained with Annexin V/pro- apoptosis and necrosis, both treated and untreated control cells were stained with Annexin pidium iodide (PI) and analyzed through flow cytometry (Figure 4). Quantitative results V/propidium iodide (PI) and analyzed through flow cytometry (Figure 4). Quantitative of Annexin V/PI revealed increased amount of late apoptotic cells 23.4% and early apop- results of Annexin V/PI revealed increased amount of late apoptotic cells 23.4% and early totic cells 43.2% in the methanolic needle extract-treated group compared to control (p < apoptotic cells 43.2% in the methanolic needle extract-treated group compared to control 0.01). The hexane pollen extract-treated group showed considerably more viable cells (p < 0.01). The hexane pollen extract-treated group showed considerably more viable cells (70.1%) than the methanolic needle extract- and bark essential oil-treated groups, where (70.1%) than the methanolic needle extract- and bark essential oil-treated groups, where viable cells were reduced to 33.3% and 43.4%, respectively (p < 0.05). viable cells were reduced to 33.3% and 43.4%, respectively (p < 0.05). Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 6 of 17 Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 6 of 18 Figure 4. (A) Annexin V/propidium iodide (PI) staining was used to identify viable cells: Q4 (Annexin V, PI), early Figure 4. A. Annexin V/propidium iodide (PI) staining was used to identify viable cells: Q4 (An- apoptotic cells: Q3 (Annexin V+, PI), late apoptotic: Q2 (Annexin V+, PI+), and necrotic cells: Q1 (Annexin V, PI+). The nexin V-, PI-), early apoptotic cells: Q3 (Annexin V+, PI-), late apoptotic: Q2 (Annexin V+, PI+), and apoptotic effects of extracts and essential oil were determined by flow cytometry after 48 h in A549 cells, with untreated necrotic cells: Q1 (Annexin V-, PI+). The apoptotic effects of extracts and essential oil were deter- cells used as a control and cells treated with IC concentrations of pollen hexane extract, bark essential oil, and methanolic mined by flow cytometry after 48 h in A549 cells, with untreated cells used as a control and cells needle extract; (B) Quantitative results of apoptotic effects evaluated by the Annexin V/FITC assay. Data are expressed as treated with IC50 concentrations of pollen hexane extract, bark essential oil, and methanolic needle mean  standard deviation (SD), representative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01 vs. control. extract. B. Quantitative results of apoptotic effects evaluated by the Annexin V/FITC assay. Data are expressed as mean ± standard deviation (SD), representative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01 vs. control. 2.5. Scratch Migration Assay A scratch migration assay was performed to observe the anticancer effects of P. eldarica 2.5. Scratch Migration Assay extracts and essential oil on the migration of A549 cells. Wound areas in A549 cells after A scratch migration assay was performed to observe the anticancer effects of P. el- 24 and 48 h of treatment with the hexane pollen extract (31.7 g/mL), bark essential oil darica extracts and essential oil on the migration of A549 cells. Wound areas in A549 cells (17.9 g/mL), methanolic needle extract (0.3 g/mL), and the control group (no treatment) after 24 and 48 h of treatment with the hexane pollen extract (31.7 µg/mL), bark essential were measured (Figure 5A). The cells incubated with 0.3 g/mL of methanolic needle oil (17.9 µg/mL),extract methan inhibited olic need cell le ex migration tract (0.3 acr µg/ oss mLthe ), an initial d the scratch control zon grou e.p As (nshown o treat-in the migration ment) were meas rate ured chart (Figu (Figur re 5Ae ).5 T B), he after cells 24 incand ubat 48 edh, wi the th 0. wound 3 µg/mL area of in me the than pollen olic nhexane ee- extract- and dle extract inhibibark ted cel essential l migratoil-tr ion ac eated ross tcells he inwas itial s gr creater atch zon than e. that As sh of own cells inincubated the migra-with the control tion rate chart (Fmedium, igure 5B),indicating after 24 an that d 48these h, the extracts woundde arcr ea eased in the cell polmigration len hexane when extrac compar t- ed with the control group (p < 0.05). and bark essential oil-treated cells was greater than that of cells incubated with the control medium, indicating that these extracts decreased cell migration when compared with the control group (p < 0.05). Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 7 of 17 Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 7 of 18 Figure 5. (A) Inhibition of A549 cell migration by Pinus eldarica extracts after 0, 24, and 48 h of Figure 5. (A) Inhibition of A549 cell migration by Pinus eldarica extracts after 0, 24, and 48 h of treat- m tre eatment nt with b with ark e bark ssenessential tial oil (17 oil .9 (17.9 µg/m Lg/mL), ), pollen pollen hexan hexane e extrac extract t (31.7 ( µ 31.7 g/m Lg/mL), ), and m and ethan methanolic olic nee- dle extract (0.3 µg/mL). The distance between the two edges of the wound is shown in millimeters. needle extract (0.3 g/mL). The distance between the two edges of the wound is shown in millimeters; (B) Migration rate (µm/h) of three extracts. Data are expressed as mean ± standard deviation (SD), (B) Migration rate (m/h) of three extracts. Data are expressed as mean  standard deviation (SD), representative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 vs. control. representative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 vs. control. 2.6. Cell Cycle Analysis and Apoptosis Evaluation 2.6. Cell Cycle Analysis and Apoptosis Evaluation Treatment of A549 cells for 48 h with the methanolic needle extract and pollen hexane Treatment of A549 cells for 48 h with the methanolic needle extract and pollen hexane extract resulted in apoptosis induction and cell accumulation in the sub-G1 phase, which extract resulted in apoptosis induction and cell accumulation in the sub-G1 phase, which were comparable with those observed in the control group (Figure 6A,B). Exposure of were comparable with those observed in the control group (Figure 6A,B). Exposure of cancer cells to the bark essential oil and methanolic needle extract decreased the cell cancer cells to the bark essential oil and methanolic needle extract decreased the cell pop- population in the G2/M phase. ulation in the G2/M phase. Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 8 of 18 Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 8 of 17 Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 8 of 18 Figure 6. (A) Analysis of the cell cycle by flow cytometry in A549 cells after 48 h of treatment with Figure 6. (A) Analysis of the cell cycle by flow cytometry in A549 cells after 48 h of treatment with Figure 6. (A) Analysis of the cell cycle by flow cytometry in A549 cells after 48 h of treatment with bark essential oil (17.9 µg/mL), pollen hexane extract (31.7 µg/mL), and methanolic needle extract bark essential oil (17.9 g/mL), pollen hexane extract (31.7 g/mL), and methanolic needle extract bark essential oil (17.9 µg/mL), pollen hexane extract (31.7 µg/mL), and methanolic needle extract (0.3 µg/mL). (B) Cell cycle quantitative results. (0.3 µg/mL). (B) Cell cycle quantitative results. (0.3 g/mL); (B) Cell cycle quantitative results. 2.7. Western Blot Analysis: Effects of P. eldarica Extracts and Essential Oil on Bax/Bcl 2 Ratio 2.7. Western Blot Analysis: Effects of P. eldarica Extracts and Essential Oil on Bax/Bcl 2 Ratio 2.7. Western Blot Analysis: Effects of P. eldarica Extracts and Essential Oil on Bax/Bcl 2 Ratio Next, to investigate the effects of P. eldarica extracts and essential oil on the Bcl-2 fam- Next, to investigate the effects of P. eldarica extracts and essential oil on the Bcl- Next, to investigate the effects of P. eldarica extracts and essential oil on the Bcl-2 fam- ily in A549 cells, the expression of Bcl-2 (antiapoptotic) and Bax (proapoptotic) proteins 2 family in A549 cells, the expression of Bcl-2 (antiapoptotic) and Bax (proapoptotic) ily in A549 cells, the expression of Bcl-2 (antiapoptotic) and Bax (proapoptotic) proteins was detected via Western blot analysis, and the Bax/Bcl-2 ratio was determined (Figure 7). proteins was detected via Western blot analysis, and the Bax/Bcl-2 ratio was determined was detected via Western blot analysis, and the Bax/Bcl-2 ratio was determined (Figure 7). A549 cells were treated with the IC50 concentration of the pollen hexane extract (31.7 (Figure 7). A549 cells were treated with the IC concentration of the pollen hexane extract A549 cells were treated with the IC50 concentration of the pollen hexane extract (31.7 µg/mL), bark essential oil (17.9 µg/mL), methanolic needle extract (0.3 µg/mL), and con- (31.7 g/mL), bark essential oil (17.9 g/mL), methanolic needle extract (0.3 g/mL), and µg/mL), bark essential oil (17.9 µg/mL), methanolic needle extract (0.3 µg/mL), and con- contr trol g ol rou grp oup wiwith thouout t trea treatment tment fofor r 48 48 h,h, rev rev eal ealing ing aa ddecr ecrease ease iin n B Bcl-2 cl-2 an and d incr increase ease in in Bax Bax trol group without treatment for 48 h, revealing a decrease in Bcl-2 and increase in Bax protein expression levels (Figure 7A). The Bax/Bcl-2 ratio (Figure 7B) increased by 6.8- and protein expression levels (Figure 7A). The Bax/Bcl-2 ratio (Figure 7B) increased by 6.8- protein expression levels (Figure 7A). The Bax/Bcl-2 ratio (Figure 7B) increased by 6.8- and 27.2-times in the pollen hexane extract- and methanolic needle extract-treated cells, re- and 27.2-times in the pollen hexane extract- and methanolic needle extract-treated cells, 27.2-times in the pollen hexane extract- and methanolic needle extract-treated cells, re- rs espectively pectively, wh , when en comp compar ared ed wi with th th that at in in th the e con contr trol ol ccells. ells. spectively, when compared with that in the control cells. Figure Figure 7. 7. ( (A A) ) Descriptive Descriptive iimages mages o of f w western estern bl blot ot an analysis alysis oof f BBax ax an and d Bc Bcl-2 l-2 ex expr press ession ion rer lat elative ive toto β- Figure 7. (A) Descriptive images of western blot analysis of Bax and Bcl-2 expression relative to β- actin as an internal control. (B) Bax/Bcl-2 ratio in A549 cell line treated with IC50 concentrations of -actin as an internal control; (B) Bax/Bcl-2 ratio in A549 cell line treated with IC concentrations of actin as an internal control. (B) Bax/Bcl-2 ratio in A549 cell line treated with IC50 concentrations of P. eldarica extracts and essential oil for 48 h. a. Control group, b. Pollen hexane extract-treated group P. eldarica extracts and essential oil for 48 h. a. Control group, b. Pollen hexane extract-treated group P. eldarica extracts and essential oil for 48 h. a. Control group, b. Pollen hexane extract-treated group (31.7 µg/mL), c. Bark essential oil-treated group (17.9 µg/mL), d. Methanolic needle extract-treated (31.7 g/mL), c. Bark essential oil-treated group (17.9 g/mL), d. Methanolic needle extract-treated (31.7 µg/mL), c. Bark essential oil-treated group (17.9 µg/mL), d. Methanolic needle extract-treated group (0.3 µg/mL). Data are expressed as mean ± standard deviation (SD), representative of three g gr ro oup up ((0.3 0.3 µg g/mL). /mL). D Data ata are are e expr xpre essed ssed a as s m mean ean ± st standar andard d d deviation eviation ((SD), SD), re repr preesentative sentative o of f tthr hre ee e independent experiments. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01 vs. control. independent experiments. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01 vs. control. independent experiments. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01 vs. control. 2.8. Western Blot Analysis: Effects of P. eldarica Extracts and Essential Oil on Caspase-3 2.8. Western Blot Analysis: Effects of P. eldarica Extracts and Essential Oil on Caspase-3 2.8. Western Blot Analysis: Effects of P. eldarica Extracts and Essential Oil on Caspase-3 Activation Activationand andP PARP ARPCleavage Cleavage Activation and PARP Cleavage Treatment of A549 cells with IC50 concentrations of P. eldarica extracts and essential Treatment of A549 cells with IC concentrations of P. eldarica extracts and essential oil Treatment of A549 cells with IC50 concentrations of P. eldarica extracts and essential for oil 48 forh 48 significantly h significan incr tly eased increase caspase-3 d caspacleavage se-3 cleav (p ag < e 0.05) (p < 0 (Figur .05) (F e i8 g). ur P eARP 8). P is Athe RP most is the oil for 48 h significantly increased caspase-3 cleavage (p < 0.05) (Figure 8). PARP is the cr mos ucial t cpr ruotein cial pcleaved rotein cafter leavecaspase-3 d after cas activation. pase-3 actThe ivattr ioeatment n. The tof reat cells men with t of 0.3 cell s g/mL with 0. of3 most crucial protein cleaved after caspase-3 activation. The treatment of cells with 0.3 Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 9 of 18 Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 9 of 17 Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 9 of 18 µg/mL of the methanolic needle extract and 31.7 µg/mL of the pollen hexane extract in- µ dg u /c mL ed P of AtRP he c m leav ethag ane ol , iccomp neear dle e dex wi trta h c tt h an os d e 31 ob.s 7 eµ rv ge /d m i L n of the th ce on ptol rol len g rh ou ex p an (p e < ex 0t .05) rac.t in- the methanolic needle extract and 31.7 g/mL of the pollen hexane extract induced PARP duced PARP cleavage, compared with those observed in the control group (p < 0.05). cleavage, compared with those observed in the control group (p < 0.05). Figure 8. (A) Descriptive images of Western blot analysis of caspase-3 and PARP proteins. (B) Figure 8. (A) Descriptive images of Western blot analysis of caspase-3 and PARP proteins; (B) Caspase- F Caspa igure se 8.- 3 ( A an ) d D P eA scri RP p tp iv ro e te im inag lee vse ls of ( fW old est ce hrn an g bl eo tto an coal nt y rsi ol) s o in f A cas 549 pase cell -3 s an tred at e PA d w RP ith p I ro Ct 50 e in co s. n c(e B n ) - 3 and PARP protein levels (fold change to control) in A549 cells treated with IC concentration of tration of Pinus eldarica extracts and essential oil for 48 h. a. Control group, b. pollen hexane extract- Caspase-3 and PARP protein levels (fold change to control) in A549 cells treate50 d with IC 50 concen- Pinus treateeldarica d group extracts (31.7 µand g/mL essential ), c. barkoi ess l for ent48 ial h. oila. -tre Contr ated ol gro gr uoup, p (17b. .9 µ pollen g/mL)hexane , and d. extract-tr methanoeated lic nee- tration of Pinus eldarica extracts and essential oil for 48 h. a. Control group, b. pollen hexane extract- dle extract-treated group (0.3 µg/mL). PARP, poly (ADP) ribose polymerase. Data are expressed as treated group (31.7 µg/mL), c. bark essential oil-treated group (17.9 µg/mL), and d. methanolic nee- group (31.7 g/mL), c. bark essential oil-treated group (17.9 g/mL), and d. methanolic needle mean ± standard deviation (SD), representative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 vs. dle extract-treated group (0.3 µg/mL). PARP, poly (ADP) ribose polymerase. Data are expressed as extract-treated group (0.3 g/mL). PARP, poly (ADP) ribose polymerase. Data are expressed as mean control. mean ± standard deviation (SD), representative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 vs. standard deviation (SD), representative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 vs. control. control. 2.9. 2.9.W Western esternBlot BlotAnalysis: Analysis:Effects Effectsof ofP .Peldarica . eldaricaExtracts Extractsand and Essential EssentiaOil l Oion l onp53 p53 2.9. Western Blot Analysis: Effects of P. eldarica Extracts and Essential Oil on p53 Western blot analysis (Figure 9) revealed that protein expression levels of p53 were Western blot analysis (Figure 9) revealed that protein expression levels of p53 were significantly signi West ficane tr ly n higher h bilg ot h er an in al in gr y g soups i rs ou (F p is g tr u t eated r reat e 9) e d r with ewi veal th the ed th e pollen th p at ol p len rhexane ot h ei ex n an exextract e pr ees xts riac on (31.7 t (31 lev.el  7 s g/mL), µ o gf/ mL p53) bark ,we barre k essential oil (17.9 g/mL), and methanolic needle extract (0.3 g/mL) than in the con- sess ign en ifitcian al t oi ly l ( h 17. igh 9er µ g in /mL grou ), an psd t r me eat te hd an wi olt ih c n th ee e d p lol e ex len tr h ac ex t (0. an3 e µ ex gt/rm ac L t ) (31 than .7 µ in g /tmL he ) c,on ba tr rol k trol group. ess grou enp ti.al oil (17.9 µg/mL), and methanolic needle extract (0.3 µg/mL) than in the control group. Figure 9. (A) Descriptive images of western blot analysis of p53 expression relative to -actin as Figure 9. (A) Descriptive images of western blot analysis of p53 expression relative to β-actin as an an internal control; (B) p53 protein level (fold change to control) in A549 cells treated with IC internal control. (B) p53 protein level (fold change to control) in A549 cells treated with IC50 concen- Figure 9. (A) Descriptive images of western blot analysis of p53 expression relative to β-actin as 50 an concentration in trat tern ioal n o cf o n Pt.r of o ell. da P (.r B eldarica ic ) ap e 53 xt p ra extracts rc otts ein an le d and v ee ss l essential ( efn otld ial c h oan iloil fg oe for r t48 o48 c h oh. .n a. tr a. o C l) Contr o in nt A rool 549 l g gr ro c oup, e up lls, tb. b re . at pollen po ell de w n hexane it hh e x IC an 50e extract- c e ox ntc re ac nt -- treated group (31.7 µg/mL), c. bark essential oil-treated group (17.9 µg/mL), and d. methanolic nee- tr trat eated ion gr ofoup P. el(31.7 darica g/mL), extracts c. anbark d essessential ential oil oil-tr for 48 eated h. a.gr Coup ontro (17.9 l gro up g/mL), , b. poand llen h d. exmethanolic ane extract- td re le at e ex dt ra gro ctu -tp re (at 31 e.d 7 µ gro g/m up L ) (,0 c .3 . b µa g rk /m eL ss ).e D ntat ial a o are il-t re exat pre ed ss gerd o u ap s m (17 e.an 9 µ ± gst /m an Ld ), ard and d d e.v m iat eito hn a n (SD olic ) ,n re ee p -- needle extract-treated group (0.3 g/mL). Data are expressed as mean  standard deviation (SD), resentative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01 vs. control. dle extract-treated group (0.3 µg/mL). Data are expressed as mean ± standard deviation (SD), rep- representative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01 vs. control. resentative of three independent experiments. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01 vs. control. 2.10. Colony Formation Assay 2.10. Colony Formation Assay 2.10. Colony Formation Assay W We e investigated investigated the the colony colony formation formation ability ability of of A549 A549 cells cells in in the the pr pesence resence or or absence absence of P. eldarica extracts and essential oil for 14 days. The colony numbers were significantly of P.We elda ir niv ca est ex ig tra a tc ed ts t an he dc ess olon en yt ifo alr oi mat l for ion 14 ab d il ay ity s .of Th A e 549 colon cely ls n iu nmb the er ps r esen were c e sio grn ab ific san enc tle y reduced after treatment with IC concentrations of the pollen hexane extract, bark essential of red P.u e cled da raft icae e rx ttrre a at ctme s an nd t wi ess th en IC tial 50 c oi on l f cor en 14 trad tiay ons s. of Thte he col pol on len y n h uex mb an er e sex we trr ac e ts,i g bn ar ifi kc ess ant en ly- oil, redand uced methanolic after treatme needle nt wi extract th IC50(Figur concen e 10 tra A). tion Compar s of the ed pol with len h those exane inex the trac contr t, bar olkgr ess oup, en- tial oil, and methanolic needle extract (Figure 10A). Compared with those in the control the colony numbers in the methanolic needle extract-treated group were reduced by over tial oil, and methanolic needle extract (Figure 10A). Compared with those in the control group, the colony numbers in the methanolic needle extract-treated group were reduced 80% (Figure 10B). group, the colony numbers in the methanolic needle extract-treated group were reduced by over 80% (Figure 10B). by over 80% (Figure 10B). Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 10 of 17 Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 10 of 18 Figure 10. (A) Representative images of colony formation test in A549 cells with IC concentrations Figure 10. (A) Representative images of colony formation test in A549 cells with IC50 concentrations of P. eldarica extracts and essential oil for 14 days; (B) Mean value of colony numbers showing of P. eldarica extracts and essential oil for 14 days. (B) Mean value of colony numbers showing inhi- inhibition in treated groups. a. Control group, b. pollen hexane extract-treated group (31.7 g/mL), bition in treated groups. a. Control group, b. pollen hexane extract-treated group (31.7 µg/mL), c. c. bark essential oil-treated group (17.9 g/mL), and d. methanolic needle extract-treated group bark essential oil-treated group (17.9 µg/mL), and d. methanolic needle extract-treated group (0.3 (0.3 g/mL). Data are expressed as mean  standard deviation (SD), representative of three indepen- µg/mL). Data are expressed as mean ± standard deviation (SD), representative of three independent dent expeexperiments. riments. * p < *0.p0< 1 0.01 vs. co vs. ntro contr l. ol. 3. Discussion 3. Discussion P. eldarica needles and bark are rich in polyphenols, tannins, and terpenoids. Essential P. eldarica needles and bark are rich in polyphenols, tannins, and terpenoids. Essential oils and extracts of pine needles and bark have various physiological and pharmacolog- oils and extracts of pine needles and bark have various physiological and pharmacological ical activities. Extracts and essential oils of P. eldarica are known to possess antioxidant, activities. Extracts and essential oils of P. eldarica are known to possess antioxidant, anti- anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and apoptotic properties, correlating with their effects on inflammatory, anticancer, and apoptotic properties, correlating with their effects on cy- cyclooxygenase activity, nitric oxide synthesis, and apoptotic protein regulation [16,21,22]. clooxygenase activity, nitric oxide synthesis, and apoptotic protein regulation [16,21,22]. Previous studies show that needles essential oil of P. eldarica was rich in D-germacrene Previous studies show that needles essential oil of P. eldarica was rich in D-germacrene and main component in the bark was limonene. P. eldarica pollen essential oil was rich and main component in the bark was limonene. P. eldarica pollen essential oil was rich in in -pinene [12,23]. Iravani et al. demonstrated that bark extract of P. eldarica had high α-pinene [12,23]. Iravani et al. demonstrated that bark extract of P. eldarica had high amounts of polyphenolic compounds such as catechin, ferulic acid, and taxifolin [18]. amounts of polyphenolic compounds such as catechin, ferulic acid, and taxifolin [18]. In the study of Sarvmeili et al., MTT-based cytotoxic effects of essential oils and In the study of Sarvmeili et al., MTT-based cytotoxic effects of essential oils and hy- hydroalcoholic extracts of P. eldarica leaf and bark were evaluated on MCF-7 and HeLa droalcoholic extracts of P. eldarica leaf and bark were evaluated on MCF-7 and HeLa cells cells [24]. Since this plant is native to Iran, it was necessary to conduct this more extensive, [24]. Since this plant is native to Iran, it was necessary to conduct this more extensive, confirm the initial data, and identify molecular pathways. Therefore, we sequentially confirm the initial data, and identify molecular pathways. Therefore, we sequentially ex- extracted P. eldarica from hydrophobic to hydrophilic compounds by hexane, methanol, tracted P. eldarica from hydrophobic to hydrophilic compounds by hexane, methanol, and and water extracts and essential oils from three parts of P. eldarica. Then, the most common water extracts and essential oils from three parts of P. eldarica. Then, the most common lung cancer cell line, A549 was chosen and cellular and molecular mechanisms of extracts lung cancer cell line, A549 was chosen and cellular and molecular mechanisms of extracts and essential oils were evaluated. and essential oils were evaluated. The results showed that the scavenging effects of methanolic extracts were higher than The results showed that the scavenging effects of methanolic extracts were higher those of the other extracts and essential oils. These results indicate that methanolic extracts than those of the other extracts and essential oils. These results indicate that methanolic possess considerably higher antioxidant activities, and among them, the methanolic bark extracts possess considerably higher antioxidant activities, and among them, the meth- and needle extracts demonstrated high DPPH radical scavenging activity (93.9% and anolic bark and needle extracts demonstrated high DPPH radical scavenging activity 83.90%, respectively). The hydroalcoholic extract of P. massoniana bark had the DPPH (93.9% and 83.90%, respectively). The hydroalcoholic extract of P. massoniana bark had the radical scavenging activity in the study of Yu et al. [25]. According to Dudonne et al., these DPPH radical scavenging activity in the study of Yu et al. [25]. According to Dudonne et extracts are potential natural antioxidant sources [26]. al., these extracts are potential natural antioxidant sources [26]. Patient-derived cancer cell lines could be used for the study of the effects of drugs Patient-derived cancer cell lines could be used for the study of the effects of drugs on on cancer cells. Scientists use different methods, such as monolayer in vitro assays, 3D cancer cells. Scientists use different methods, such as monolayer in vitro assays, 3D cul- cultures, bioreactors, or in vivo evaluations with immunocompromised animals [27,28]. In tures, bioreactors, or in vivo evaluations with immunocompromised animals [27,28]. In the present study, we used a monolayer A549 cell line to evaluate the biological effects of essential the presen oils t s and tudy extracts. , we use For d a this mon purpose, olayer Athe 549cytotoxic cell line tef o fects evalu of atessential e the biol oils ogiand cal effe hexane, cts of essential oils and extracts. For this purpose, the cytotoxic effects of essential oils and hex- methanolic, and aqueous extracts of P. eldarica bark, needles, and pollen were evaluated ane, methanolic, and aqueous extracts of P. eldarica bark, needles, and pollen were evalu- using the A549 lung cancer cell line. Based on the MTT assay results, the cell mortality rate in atall ed u gr soups ing thincr e A549 eased lunin g ca an dose-dependent cer cell line. Based manner on the , and MTTthe assmethanolic ay results, th needle e cell mor extract, tality with rate an in al IC l grvalue oups i of nc0.3 rease g/mL, d in a pr do esented se-depen the den highest t mann cytotoxicity er, and the when methan compar olic nee ed dwith le ex- tract, with an IC50 value of 0.3 µg/mL, presented the highest cytotoxicity when compared Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 11 of 17 other groups. After 48 h of treatment with the pollen essential oil and extracts group, the pollen hexane extract (IC = 31.7 g/mL) was found to be more cytotoxic than the other employed treatments. Our findings, with those observed in previous reports on the effects of pine essential oils and extracts on cancer cell lines, revealing time- and dose- dependent effects. Reportedly, the cytotoxic effect of P. massoniana bark hydroalcoholic extract on a human breast cancer cell line was demonstrated at a higher IC value than 32.5 g/mL [25]. Compared to our results, the IC values of P. eldarica bark essential oil and hexane, aqueous, and methanolic extracts were 17.9, 18.0, 25.1, and 209 g/mL, respectively. P. eldarica essential oil and extracts have been shown to prevent the growth of several cancer cell lines, with the essential oil selectively inhibiting the growth of human breast cancer MCF-7 and HeLa cells, presenting IC values of 0.032 and 0.038 g/mL, respectively [24]. Herein, we observed that the pollen hexane extract, bark essential oil, and methanolic needle extract of P. eldarica significantly suppressed the migration of lung cancer cells at 24 and 48 h. The migration rates of experimental groups were calculated, with the methanolic needle extract revealing the lowest rate (1.87 m/h in 48 h). Recent studies have shown that pine extracts can inhibit lung cancer cell migration by reducing the expression of matrix metalloproteinases [29,30]. Matrix metalloproteinases are proteolytic enzymes that are secreted from tumor cells, involved in tumor metastasis by degrading the extracellular matrix. The result of the colony formation assay showed that colony numbers in treated groups decreased significantly compared to the control group (p < 0.01). Some studies suggest that natural products can inhibit colony formation by the change in tumor suppressor genes expression [31]. We explored the anticancer mechanisms of P. eldarica extracts and essential oils on A549 lung cancer cells. Apoptosis is a crucial pathway for reducing mutated or growing cancer cells [32]. Reportedly, some natural products have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cell lines by inducing apoptosis [33,34]. To evaluate the effects of P. eldarica extracts and essential oils on apoptosis, several experiments, including DAPI staining, Annexin V/PI staining, and cell cycle analysis, was performed. Morphological changes during apoptosis were observed by DAPI staining under a fluorescence microscope. This occurs by nucleic acid denaturation in the cytoplasm. DAPI binds to DNA and forms a complex that emits bluish-white fluorescence by ultraviolet light exciting, so small amounts of DNA can be visualized. Condensed and fragmented chromatin, as specific properties of apoptotic cells, were detected in all extract- and essential oil-treated groups, with a large number of apoptotic cells observed in the methanolic needle extract-treated group containing 0.3 g/mL of extract; these findings were in agreement with our results obtained following the Annexin V/PI test. In the Annexin V/PI assay, the apoptotic cell population of A549 cells was increased from 0.5% in the control group to 66.6%, 56.5%, and 29.7% in the methanolic needle extract-, bark essential oil-, and pollen hexane extract-treated groups, respectively. The methanolic needle extract-treated cells showed the highest population of apoptotic cells when compared with the other two groups. Thus, we conclude that this group showed suitable efficacy as a potential therapeutic option. In the cell cycle analysis, A549 cells treated with the methanolic needle extract (0.3 g/mL) and pollen hexane extract (31.7 g/mL) revealed cell accumulation in the sub-G1 phase, and the percentage of cells in the S phase was reduced in the methanolic needle extract-treated group. Ma et al. have investigated the cytotoxic effects of P. mas- soniana extract on HeLa cells, demonstrating that cell cycle arrest occurs in the sub-G1 phase [35]; this was in agreement with our results. Sub-G1 cells were non-apoptotic and viable. Some cells frequently returned and then proceeded to mitosis (hypodiploid and hyperdiploid cells), before arrested in the subsequent cell-cycle interphase. Arresting cells in sub-G1 inhibit cells entering mitosis [36]. Therefore, methanolic needle extract and pollen hexane extract caused post-mitotic arrest in proceeding cell cycles. This process was p53-dependent because when cells divided, p53 arrested the cell cycle in G1 [36]. Further- more, we observed increased p53 protein expression levels in experimental groups when Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 12 of 17 compared with those in the control group. p53 is a known tumor suppressor gene [37]. In several types of cancers, p53 is damaged owing to mutations, and p53 protein levels are decreased, leading to malignant tumors [38,39]. The cell cycle analysis showed that the accumulation of A549 cells in the S phase was observed after 48 h treatment with the bark essential oil (17.9 g/mL). Cell cycle arrest at the S phase may result from different mechanisms of action, for example, interfering with cell cycle progression and apoptosis induction, probably by reducing Bcl-2 protein expression. Mitochondria play a critical role in apoptosis, releasing proapoptotic proteins from their membranes into the cytosol. Bcl-2 family proteins are essential mitochondrial regulators of apoptosis [40]. The primary proapoptotic member of these proteins is Bax, which can initiate the release of cytochrome c and subsequent activation of caspase-3 and caspase-9. Bcl-2 acts as an antiapoptotic protein. Bcl-2 inhibits cytochrome c translocation and inhibits caspase-3 activation and apoptosis initiation [19]. High Bax protein expression levels correlate with low Bcl-2 expression levels, which would stimulate apoptosis. The ratio of Bax/Bcl2 expression levels is a diagnostic indicator of cancer [41]. In the present study, Western blot analysis was performed to analyze changes in protein expression of Bcl-2 and Bax in the pollen hexane extract, bark essential oil, methanolic needle extract, and control groups. Based on our Western blot analysis results, the ratio of Bax/Bcl-2 expression levels, as a predictor of apoptosis, increased 6.8- and 27.2-times in the pollen hexane extract- (p < 0.05) and methanolic needle extract-treated groups (p < 0.01) when compared with the control, respectively. In recent studies, pine needle essential oil reportedly downregulated Bcl-2 protein expression and induced apoptosis in oral squamous cell carcinoma [42]. This was in agreement with the results of the present study, which showed that the methanolic needle extract induced apoptosis at a concentration of 0.3 g/mL by altering Bcl-2 and Bax protein expression in A549 cells more efficiently than other evaluated extracts. In normal cells, caspases exist in the procaspase form with specific molecular weights. However, upon stimulation of cells with an apoptogenic agent, caspases are activated via proteolytic cleavage. After activation, caspases can cleave other proteins, such as PARP, leading to apoptosis [43]. A previous report has reported the ability of caspases to induce apoptosis in cancer cells following treatment with natural plant-derived extracts [20]. For instance, pine cone water extract reportedly activates caspase-3 and induces apoptosis in a lung cancer cell line [20]. We observed elevated levels of cleaved caspase-3 and cleaved PARP in A549 cells treated with IC concentrations of the pollen hexane extract, bark essential oil, and methanolic needle extract. These results suggest that activation of the caspase pathway is essential for inducing apoptosis in A549 cells following treatment with P. eldarica extracts. Our results showed that P. eldarica extracts mainly, methanolic needle extract, can prevent and treat cancer by various mechanisms. Cell cycle arrest, inhibition of cancer cell migration, and proliferation were some of the anticancer effects. Induction of apoptosis by downregulating of antiapoptotic gene products, such as Bcl-2, and stimulation of apoptotic protein expression such as Bax, caspases, and p53 lead to apoptosis, which was confirmed with the Annexin V/PI test. 4. Materials and Methods 4.1. Materials Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO, 99.9%), Roswell Park Memorial Institute 1640 growth medium (RPMI-1640), trypsin, fetal bovine serum (FBS), penicillin/streptomycin, MTT, DPPH, 4 ,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI), radioimmunoprecipitation assay (RIPA) buffer, Triton X-100, PI, and 96% ethanol were purchased from Sigma Aldrich Co. (St. Louis, MO, USA). DOX was purchased from Stadapharm GmbH (Laichingen, Germany). The Annexin V/PI apoptosis detection kit was purchased from Exbio Co. (Exbio, Czech Republic). Antibodies against Bcl-2 (sc-492), Bax (sc-7480), caspase-3 (sc-136219), p53 (sc-126), -actin (sc-47778), and PARP (sc-8007) antibodies were purchased from Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Inc. (Santa Cruz, CA). Phosphate-buffered saline (PBS), methanol, and Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 13 of 17 n-hexane were purchased from Merck (Darmstadt, Germany). Polyvinylidene difluoride (PVDF) membranes were purchased from Roche (Germany). The chemiluminescence detection kit was purchased from Pierce (Rockford, IL, USA). 4.2. Plant Material P. eldarica needles, pollen, and bark were collected in May and June 2018 from Tabriz district in Iran and identified (No.4036) by the Herbarium of Pharmacy Faculty, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences. All air-dried specimens were sequentially extracted in the order of hexane, methanol, and water by using the Soxhlet apparatus. Then, the extracts were concentrated using a rotary evaporator (Heidolph, Germany), dried using a freeze dryer (Christ Alpha1-4, Germany), and stored at 20 C until use. For essential oil preparation, 100 g of P. eldarica needles, bark, and pollen powders were hydro-distilled in a Clevenger device separately. The resulting essential oil was dried using anhydrous sodium sulfate and stored in a sealed vial at 4 C until further analysis. Different concentrations of the extracts and essential oil (0.001, 0.01, 0.1, 1, 10, and 100 g/mL) were prepared. DMSO was used as the solvent to prepare the stock solution (max 1% v/v). 4.3. DPPH Radical Scavenging Assay The DPPH radical scavenging activity was determined by adding 1 mL of the DPPH ethanolic solution (0.1 mM) to 1 mL of each extract (1 mg/mL), shaken, and incubated at 37 C for 30 min in the dark. Then, the absorbance of each extract was measured at 517 nm by ultraviolet–visible (UV–Vis) spectrophotometry (Ultrospec 2000, Pharmacia Biotech, Amersham, UK) [44]. DPPH ethanolic solution was used as a control, and 70% ethanol was used as a blank. The radical scavenging activity as a percentage of DPPH discoloration was calculated using the following equation: UV Absorbance of extract DPPH activity (%) =  100. UV Absorbance of control 4.4. Cell Culture The A549 cell line was obtained from the Pasteur Institute (Tehran, Iran). Cells were grown in RPMI-1640 supplemented with 10% FBS and 1% penicillin/streptomycin. The media was sterilized using 0.22-m filters and stored at 4 C before use. Cells were grown in RPMI-1640 medium at 37 C in a 5% CO incubator. 4.5. MTT-Based Cytotoxicity Assay The cytotoxicity of the essential oil and different extracts of P. eldarica against the A549 cell line was determined by employing a rapid colorimetric assay using MTT [45–49]. In this assay, soluble MTT is metabolized by the mitochondrial enzyme activity of viable cells into an insoluble formazan dye product. Subsequently, formazan was dissolved in DMSO and measured spectrophotometrically at 540 nm. Briefly, 180 L of a cell suspension (5  10 cells/mL of medium) was seeded in 96-well microplates and incubated for 24 h (37 C, 5% CO humidified air). Then, prepared concentrations of essential oil and extracts ranging from 0 to 100 g/mL were added to each well. The plates were incubated for another 48 h under the same conditions. DOX and 1% DMSO were used as positive and negative controls, respectively. To assess cell survival, 20 L of MTT solution (5 mg/mL in PBS) was added to each well, and the plates were incubated at 37 C for 3 h. Then, the old media containing MTT was removed and 150 L DMSO was added to each well and pipetted to dissolve the formed formazan crystals. Absorbance was measured using an ELISA plate reader (Awareness Technology, Inc., Palm City, FL, USA) at 540 nm. Each extract concentration was repeated three times, and cell survival in the negative control was assumed to be 100%. The IC value was calculated using GraphPad Prism software version 6.0. Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 14 of 17 4.6. DAPI Staining DAPI staining was performed to evaluate nuclei fragmentation. A549 cells (2  10 cells/well) were seeded into 6-well plates. After incubation, cultured lung cancer cells at 70% confluence were treated with IC concentrations of extracts and essential oil for 48 h. Next, the cells were washed with PBS, fixed with paraformaldehyde (4%) for 20 min and permeabilized with 0.15% Triton X-100 for 15 min. Subsequently, the cells were stained in the dark with 0.1% DAPI for 15 min, washed with PBS, and observed by fluorescence microscopy (Olympus, Seoul, Korea) [50]. 4.7. Annexin V/PI Flow Cytometry A549 cells (2  10 cells/well) were seeded in 6-well plates and incubated in RPMI- 1640 medium for 48 h. Subsequently, the IC concentration of the extracts and essential oil was added to the wells and incubated for 48 h. Then, the cells were trypsinized and washed with cold PBS, supernatants were removed, and 100 L binding buffer was added at ice- cold temperature. Finally, lung cancer cells were stained with Pl and Annexin V-fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC) according to the manufacturer ’s instructions. A FACSCalibur flow cytometer (BD Biosciences, San Jose, CA, USA) was used to analyze apoptosis rate. The data were analyzed using the FlowJo software package (Treestar, Inc., San Carlos, CA, USA) [51]. 4.8. Scratch Migration Assay To examine the migration of A549 cells in two-dimensional monolayers, cells were seeded in 6-well plates and incubated in RPMI-1640 medium. After the cells reach to confluent monolayer (at least 70% confluency), a thin linear scratch “wound” was created using a 200 L pipette tip. The monolayers were then washed with PBS to remove detached cells and treated with IC concentrations of extracts and essential oil; images were captured at 0, 24, and 48 h after treatment with a digital camera connected to a bright-field microscope. Wound width was calculated as the distance between two edges of the scratch using CorelDRAW software [52]. The migration rate was calculated using the following equation: initial wound width (m) final wound width(m) Migration rate (m/h) = duration of migration (h) 4.9. Cell Cycle Analysis A549 cells (3  10 cells/mL) were seeded in 6-well plates. After 24 h, cells were treated with IC concentrations of extracts and essential oil. Cells were trypsinized after 48 h and fixed in ice-cold 70% ethanol at 4 C for 2 h. A549 cells were centrifuged and washed with PBS, treated with 1 mL PI master mix containing 950 L PBS, 40 L PI, and 10 L RNase A to stain cellular DNA, incubated at room temperature for 30 min, and analyzed using a FACSCalibur flow cytometer (BD Biosciences, San Jose, CA, USA) [50]. 4.10. Western Blot Analysis Expression of Bcl-2, Bax, caspase-3, p53, and PARP in lung cancer cells was analyzed by Western blot analysis, as described previously [33,34,53]. A549 cells were seeded in 6-well plates. On reaching the appropriate confluency, the cells were treated with IC concentration of extracts and essential oil for 48 h. Next, the cells were trypsinized and washed with ice-cold PBS. For cell lysis, RIPA buffer (1% NP-40, 1% sodium deoxycholate, 0.1% SDS, 1 mM EDTA, 150 mM NaCl, and 50 mM Tris-HCl, pH 7.8) containing a protease inhibitor cocktail was used. After centrifugation at 12,000 g for 10 min at 4 C, the super- natant containing proteins was collected and stored at 80 C. Proteins were separated by SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and electro-transferred to polyvinylidene fluoride membranes. Membranes were incubated in Tris-buffered saline containing 5% non-fat dry milk for 2 h to block nonspecific binding. Membranes were incubated overnight at 4 C with anti Bcl-2 (1:500, sc-492), Bax (1:500, sc-7480), caspase-3 (1:500, sc-136219), p53 (1:500, Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 15 of 17 sc-126), -actin (1:500, sc-47778), and PARP (1:500, sc-8007) antibodies for 16 h. Finally, membranes were incubated with secondary antibody (anti-rabbit; 1:1000) for 75 min in the antibody buffer (5% BSA, 1X TBS, 0.1% Tween-20). For visualization of the blots, a chemi- luminescence (ECL) detection kit was used just before autoradiography. Band intensities were quantified by densitometry using the ImageJ software (U.S. National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA). 4.11. Colony Formation Assay The colony formation assay was performed as previously described [54]. A549 cells were seeded (1000 cells/well) in 6-well plates in triplicate in RPMI-1640 medium. After 24 h, the medium was removed and replaced with the IC concentration of respective extracts and essential oil. The group with no added treatment was considered as the control. After 14 days, the colonies were stained with 0.5% crystal violet solution containing 25% methanol for 15 min at 37 C and washed with excess dye. The colony numbers were counted using the ImageJ software. 4.12. Statistical Analysis The data were processed using GraphPad Prism version 6.0 (GraphPad Software, Inc., La Jolla, CA, USA) for averages and standard deviation (SD) by performing one-way and two-way analyses of variance. Data are presented as mean values  SD, and p-values less than 0.05 were considered significant. 5. Conclusions In the present study, extracts and essential oils of various parts of P. eldarica revealed robust antioxidant activity. Especially, the pollen hexane extract, bark essential oil, and methanolic needle extract of P. eldarica inhibited the proliferation and cell cycle progression in A549 lung cancer cells, mainly through Bcl-2 downregulation, stimulation of p53 expres- sion, and induction of apoptosis in a caspase-dependent manner. Furthermore, the pollen hexane extract, bark essential oil, and methanolic needle extract suppressed the migration, and colony formation of lung cancer cells. Therefore, our findings suggest that P. eldarica extracts and essential oils, especially the methanolic extract of P. eldarica needles (the most active extract), can be potentially developed as chemopreventive natural resources for cancer prevention and treatment, with further investigations warranted to determine the main components responsible for anticancer activities. Author Contributions: Conceptualization, H.H. and K.-H.K.; Formal Analysis, T.G., S.A., E.I., A.D., S.F., J.-H.H. and C.P.; Investigation, T.G., S.A., A.D. and S.F.; Resources, H.H.; Writing—Original Draft Preparation, T.G., H.H. and K.-H.K.; Writing—Review and Editing, T.G. and K.-H.K.; Project Administration, H.H. and K.-H.K.; Funding Acquisition, H.H. and K.-H.K. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript. Funding: This study was supported financially by the Drug Applied Research Center, Tabriz Univer- sity of Medical Science, Tabriz, Iran (Grant No. 58972), and the Iran National Science Foundation (Grant No. 97008952). This work was also supported by a National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Korean government (MSIT) (grant numbers 2019R1A5A2027340 and 2021R1A2C2007937). Institutional Review Board Statement: Not applicable. Informed Consent Statement: Not applicable. Data Availability Statement: Not applicable. Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest. References 1. Bray, F.; Ferlay, J.; Soerjomataram, I.; Siegel, R.L.; Torre, L.A.; Jemal, A. Global cancer statistics 2018: GLOBOCAN estimates of incidence and mortality worldwide for 36 cancers in 185 countries. CA Cancer J. Clin. 2018, 68, 394–424. [CrossRef] Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5763 16 of 17 2. Gurib-Fakim, A. Medicinal plants: Traditions of yesterday and drugs of tomorrow. Mol. Asp. 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Journal

Applied SciencesMultidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute

Published: Jun 22, 2021

Keywords: Pinus eldarica; lung cancer; A549; apoptosis; caspase-3; PARP

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