The membrane effects of melittin on gastric and colorectal cancer

Caroline Soliman, Sarah Eastwood, Vi Khanh Truong, Paul A. Ramsland, Aaron Elbourne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


The cytotoxic effects of melittin, a bee-venom peptide, have been widely studied towards cancer cells. Typically, these studies have examined the effect of melittin over extendedtime courses (6-24 hours), meaning that immediate cellular interactions have been overlooked. In this work, we demonstrate the rapid effects of melittin on both gastric and colorectal cancer, specifically AGS, COLO205 and HCT-15 cell lines, over a period of 15 minutes. Melittin exhibited a dose dependent effect at 4 hours of treatment, with complete cellular death occurring at the highest dose of 20 μg/mL. Interestingly, when observed at shorter time points, melittin induced cellular changes within seconds; membrane damage was observed as swelling, breakage or blebbing. High-resolution imaging revealed treated cells to be compromised, showing clear change in cellular morphology. After 1 minute of melittin treatment, membrane changes were observed, and intracellular material could be seen expelled from the cells. Overall, these results enhance our understanding of the fast acting anti-cancer effects of melittin.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0224028
Number of pages16
JournalPLoS One
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Soliman et al.


  • membrane
  • melittin
  • gastric
  • colorectal
  • cancer
  • cytotoxic
  • Bee
  • venom
  • peptide


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