Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a key regulator of pathogenic angiogenesis in diseases such as cancer and diabetic retinopathy. Bee products [royal jelly (RJ), bee pollen, and Chinese red propolis] from the honeybee, Apis mellifera, have been used as traditional health foods for centuries. The aim of this study was to investigate the anti-angiogenic effects of bee products using human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs).
In an in vitro tube formation assay, HUVECs and fibroblast cells were incubated for 14 days with VEGF and various concentrations of bee products [RJ, ethanol extract of bee pollen, ethanol extract of Chinese red propolis and its constituent, caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE)]. To clarify the mechanism of in vitro angiogenesis, HUVEC proliferation and migration were induced by VEGF with or without various concentrations of RJ, bee pollen, Chinese red propolis, and CAPE.
RJ, bee pollen, Chinese red propolis, and CAPE significantly suppressed VEGF-induced in vitro tube formation in the descending order: CAPE > Chinese red propolis >> bee pollen > RJ. RJ and Chinese red propolis suppressed both VEGF-induced HUVEC proliferation and migration. In contrast, bee pollen and CAPE suppressed only the proliferation.
Among the bee products, Chinese red propolis and CAPE in particular showed strong suppressive effects against VEGF-induced angiogenesis. These findings indicate that Chinese red propolis and CAPE may have potential as preventive and therapeutic agents against angiogenesis-related human diseases.