Recent studies on antimicrobial and anticancer activities of saponins: a mini-review

Document Type : Mini-Review


1 Lorestan University of Medical Sciences, Khorramabad, Iran

2 Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Khorramabad, Lorestan University, Lorestan, Iran


Multidrug-resistant cancer cells and microbial pathogeneses remain the complicated hindrances in therapy for cancer and microbial infections. In addition, severe side effects from chemotherapy can result from conventional drugs. New formulations based on bioactive compounds isolated from medicinal plants may alleviate these side effects and increase antimicrobial activity. Saponins as surface-active triterpene glycosides can be synthesized by various plants (wild plants and cultivated crops such as soapbark trees and soapwort), lower marine animals, and some bacteria. Nano-formulations of saponins, particularly on a scale of <100 nm, can augment therapeutic effects in the body by overcoming some disadvantages of saponins, mainly potential damage to the intestinal mucosa and disruption of blood cells.

Graphical Abstract

Recent studies on antimicrobial and anticancer activities of saponins: a mini-review


  • Nano formulations based on saponins can be applied to overcome multidrug resistance in cancer cells and microbial pathogeneses as well as severe side effects of chemotherapy.
  • Disruption of bacterial cell walls and membranes has been found for nano-formulations of saponins.
  • In the case of anticancer mechanisms, apoptosis induction and inhibition of metastasis stage via suppressing MMP-2/9 in several types of cancers have been reported for these formulations.
  • The biocompatibility, biodegradability, and bioavailability of these formulations should be evaluated in future investigations.


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