The immunomodulatory effects of Sutherlandia frutescens extracts in human normal peripheral blood mononuclear cells

Mlungisi Ngcobo, Nceba Gqaleni*, Paul Kiprono Chelule, Metse Serumula, Alain Assounga

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Sutherlandia frutescens (SF) is one of the medicinal plants used as an immune booster in the treatment of chronic ailments such as HIV/AIDS and cancer. Limited data suggest that its efficacy is based on its regulatory effect on cytokines, the critical components of the immune response. In this study, we investigated the in vitro immunomodulatory effects of SF extracts on normal human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). An ELISA-based assay was used to assess the levels of expression of 12 cytokines in treated cells. An adenosine triphosphate (ATP) assay was used to assess cell viability in relation to cytokine secretion. SF ethanol extracts induced changes in cytokine secretion relative to the dose of the extract. Generally cytokine expression and secretion was low in concentration because were not stimulated with any endotoxin. The high SFE dose (2.5 mg/ml) significantly (p<0.001) decreased some cytokines including TNF-α and IL 1β. Low doses of this extract (0.5 mg/ml) did not change TNF-α and IL 1β secretion from the baseline (untreated cells). Changes in cytokine secretion of SFE treated cells tracked changes in ATP levels (cell viability). The SFW extract-induced changes in cytokine secretion were independent of cell viability. TNF-α was decreased (p<0.001) by the high dose of SFW extract while IL 1β and IFNγ were increased (p<0.01) by the same dose. High doses decreased cell viability which was reflected in cytokine secretion. It is evident, from these results, that SF extracts can modulate cytokine secretion in unstimulated normal PBMCs in vitro. Further studies in animal models are recommended to advance understanding of this immunomodulatory activity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAfrican Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines
Issue numberSUPPL.3
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell viability
  • Cytokines
  • Immune response
  • Sutherlandia frutescens


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