The high incidence of oropharyngeal, esophageal, and laryngeal cancers in certain parts of the world has been ascribed to conjugated tannins found in certain folk medicinal herbs. We extracted miang leaf and betel nut with phosphate-buffered saline (0.14 m NaCl, 0.15 m potassium phosphate buffer, pH 7.4) and found that the extracts inhibited [3H]thymidine incorporation by phytohemagglutinin-stimulated human lymphocytes and by rat mammary tumor and mouse L-cells in logarithmic growth. Pretreating the lymphocytes for 1 or 4 hr with the extracts inhibited phytohemagglutinin-induced thymidine incorporation 72 hr later. At concentrations of 2.5 volumes % or lower, miang and betel nut extracts inhibited thymidine incorporation by 40 to 98% without any appearent signs of toxicity as demonstrated by the 86Rb equilibrium assay. In addition, neither extract inhibited cytotoxicity of rat mammary tumor cells by immune syngeneic spleen cells. The molecular weights of the inhibitory factors were between 1,000 and 10,000 daltons as determined by ultrafiltration and were unaffected by boiling for 3 min or by treatment with alcohol and, therefore, are probably not proteins. This in vitro demonstration of inhibition of DNA synthesis by these plant extracts presumably enriched for conjugated tannins may relate to inhibition of growth of rats and chicks fed conjugated tannin-contaminated sorghum feed. The carcinogenic potential of either these extracts or conjugated tannins is not yet established.


Supported by the Beta Sigma Phi Kidney Research Fund.

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