Induction of apoptosis by Citrus paradisi essential oil in human leukemic (HL-60) cells

In Vivo. 2003 Nov-Dec;17(6):553-9.


Limonene is a primary component of citrus essential oils (EOs) and has been reported to induce apoptosis on tumor cells. Little is known about induction of apoptosis by citrus EOs. In this study, we examined induction of apoptosis by Citrus aurantium var. dulcis (sweet orange) EO, Citrus paradisi (grapefruit) EO and Citrus limon (lemon) EO. These EOs induced apoptosis in HL-60 cells and the apoptosis activities were related to the limonene content of the EOs. Moreover, sweet orange EO and grapefruit EO may contain components besides limonene that have apoptotic activity. To identify the components with apoptotic activity, grapefruit EO was fractionated using silica gel columns, and the components were analyzed by GC-MS. The n-hexane fraction contained limonene, and the dichloromethane fraction (DF) contained aldehyde compounds and nootkatone. Decanal, octanal and citral in the DF showed strong apoptotic activity, suggesting that the aldehyde compounds induced apoptosis strongly in HL-60 cells.

MeSH terms

  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology
  • Citrus paradisi*
  • Cyclohexenes
  • DNA Fragmentation / drug effects*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • HL-60 Cells
  • Humans
  • Limonene
  • Oils, Volatile / chemistry
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Plant Preparations / chemistry
  • Plant Preparations / pharmacology*
  • Terpenes / pharmacology


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Cyclohexenes
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Plant Preparations
  • Terpenes
  • Limonene