Ethyl Acetate Extract of Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) Enhances Proliferation and Osteogenic Differentiation of Human Bone Marrow Mesenchymal Stem Cells

Document Type : Research article


1 Department of Biotechnology, Faculty of Agriculture, Bu-Ali Sina University, Hamedan, Iran

2 Department of Pharmacognosy, School of Pharmacy, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.

3 Evidence-based Phytotherapy and Complementary Medicine Research Center, Alborz University of Medical Sciences, Karaj, Iran.

4 Department of Hematology, Faculty of Medical Science, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran

5 Department of Phytochemistry, Medicinal Plants and Drug Research Institute, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran

6 Department of Life Science Engineering, Faculty of New Science and Technologies, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran.

7 Department of Biology, Faculty of Sciences, University of Mohaghegh Ardabili, Ardabil, Iran.


Glycyrrhiza glabra has been used as a flavoring and sweetener agent, in addition to its therapeutic properties. It is rich in phytoestrogen and may prevent osteoporosis caused by estrogen deficiency; however, there is no evidence for its effects on proliferation and osteogenesis in mesenchymal stem cells. So, we were encouraged to investigate whether the ethyl acetate extract of licorice root as a source of phytoestrogen can act similar to estrogen in cell culture. Furthermore, the analysis of the licorice extract (LE) based on HPLC-DAD-ESI-MS indicated that LE comprises phytoestrogen compounds, such as glabridin and glabrene. In this study, the effects of LE on proliferation of human bone-marrow mesenchymal stem cells (hBM-MSCs) were investigated using MTT assay. In addition, its effects on the osteogenesis were evaluated using alkaline phosphatase activity (ALP), calcium deposition, and bone specific gene expression such as ALP, osteocalcin, Runx2, and BMP-2. The quantitative gene expression was studied by real-time RT-PCR. Our results showed a significant increase in proliferation in presence of LE in concentration 10-50 μg/mL. The differentiation of hBM-MSCs increased in doses of LE (10-25 μg/mL) compared to the control group. The effects of LE were similar to those of 17β-estradiol (E2) (10-8 M) and were abolished by ICI 182,780 an antagonist of estrogen receptor (ER) (10-7), indicating that the stimulatory effects of LE occur through estrogen receptor-mediated mechanism . Taking these into account, LE may be a potential candidate for prevention of osteoporosis in menopausal women.


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