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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 3, Issue 3, Pages 317-327
Original Article

Insulin-sensitizing and Anti-proliferative Effects of Argania spinosa Seed Extracts

1Groupe d'étude des protéines membranaires, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Canada
2Department of Pharmacology, Université de Montréal Montréal, Canada
3Department of Physiology, Université de Montréal Montréal, Canada
4Institute of Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals, Université Laval Québec, Canada
5Department of Biology, Université Hassan II, Casablanca, Morocco
6Department of Chemistry, Université Mohammed V Rabat, Morocco

Received 19 October 2005; Accepted 16 March 2006

Copyright © 2006 Samira Samane et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Argania spinosa is an evergreen tree endemic of southwestern Morocco. Many preparations have been used in traditional Moroccan medicine for centuries to treat several illnesses including diabetes. However, scientific evidence supporting these actions is lacking. Therefore, we prepared various extracts of the argan fruit, namely keel, cake and argan oil extracts, which we tested in the HTC hepatoma cell line for their potential to affect cellular insulin responses. Cell viability was measured by Trypan Blue exclusion and the response to insulin evaluated by the activation of the extracellular regulated kinase (ERK1/2), ERK kinase (MEK1/2) and protein kinase B (PKB/Akt) signaling components. None of the extracts demonstrated significant cytotoxic activity. Certain extracts demonstrated a bi-phasic effect on ERK1/2 activation; low doses of the extract slightly increased ERK1/2 activation in response to insulin, whereas higher doses completely abolished the response. In contrast, none of the extracts had any significant effect on MEK whereas only a cake saponin subfraction enhanced insulin-induced PKB/Akt activation. The specific action of argan oil extracts on ERK1/2 activation made us consider an anti-proliferative action. We have thus tested other transformed cell lines (HT-1080 and MSV-MDCK-INV cells) and found similar results. Inhibition of ERK1/2 activation was also associated with decreased DNA synthesis as evidenced by [3H]thymidine incorporation experiments. These results suggest that the products of Argania spinosa may provide a new therapeutic avenue against proliferative diseases.