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Rhus species are known in traditional medicine for their therapeutic virtue and their extracts showed numerous important properties including antimalarial, antimicrobial, antiviral, and hypoglycemic and anticonvulsant activities. Rhus tripartitum (Ucria) is a medicinal plant widely used in Tunisia folk medicine against chronic diarrhea and gastric ulcer. This study was designed to examine in vitro and ex vivo antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities of four extracts of Rhus tripartitum root cortex with increasing solvent polarity (hexane, dichloromethane, methanol and water). HPLC was used to identify and quantify phenolic compounds in Rhus extract. Water extract showed the highest antioxidant activity using oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC method) with 8.95 ± 0.47 µmol Trolox/mg and a cell based-assay with 0.28 ± 0.12 µmol Trolox/mg as compared to the other fractions. Moreover, methanol extract displayed the strongest anti-cancer activity against human lung carcinoma (A-549) and colon adenocarcinoma cell lines (DLD-1) with an IC50 value of 60.69 ± 2.58 and 39.83 ± 4.56 µg/ml (resazurin test) and 44.52 ± 5.96 and 55.65 ± 6.00 µg/ml (hoechst test), respectively. Besides, the highest anti-inflammatory activity, inhibiting nitric oxide (NO) release, was exhibited by dichloromethane extract with 31.5 % at 160 µg/ml in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated RAW 264.7 macrophages. The HPLC analysis showed that catechol and kaempferol were the major phenolics. These data suggest the richness of all fractions of Ucria root on interesting bioactive molecules with different polarity and confirm the known traditional therapeutics virtues of this species for the treatment of dysentery, diarrhea and gastric ulcer.
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