Evaluation of the mutagenicity of beta-myrcene in mammalian cells in vitro

Environ Mol Mutagen. 1991;18(1):28-34. doi: 10.1002/em.2850180106.


The genotoxicity of the terpene beta-myrcene was evaluated in mammalian cells in vitro. Myrcene is the major constituent of oil of bay and hop which are used in the manufacture of alcoholic beverages. Myrcene is also present in lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus), a plant widely used in Brazilian folk medicine. Recently, it was shown that myrcene is a very potent analgesic substance and might be an alternative to the already available analgesic drugs. Myrcene was tested up to 1,000 micrograms/ml (limit of solubility) in the presence and absence of S9-mix and did not induce chromosome aberrations and sister chromatid exchanges (SCEs) in human lymphocytes in vitro. Neither the mitotic index nor the proliferation index was influenced by the myrcene treatment. Myrcene did not cause increased mutation frequencies at the hprt-locus in V79-cells. Tests with and without S9-mix revealed negative results. There was no indication for induced cytotoxicity. However, myrcene reduced the SCE-inducing effect of cyclophosphamide in human lymphocytes in a dose dependent manner and also reduced the toxic and mutagenic effect of cyclophosphamide in V79-cells. Under the same test conditions, SCE induction by ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS) and benzo [a]pyrene (BP) was not significantly influenced by simultaneous myrcene treatment. The in vitro results show that myrcene is not mutagenic in mammalian cells, but has antimutagenic properties. The possibility that myrcene exerts its antimutagenic activity by inhibiting certain forms of the cytochrome P-450 isoenzymes required for activation of premutagens and precarcinogenes is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acyclic Monoterpenes
  • Animals
  • Biotransformation
  • Cell Line
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chromosome Aberrations*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoxanthine Phosphoribosyltransferase / genetics*
  • Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • Male
  • Microsomes, Liver / metabolism
  • Monoterpenes*
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Mutagens / pharmacology*
  • Reference Values
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sister Chromatid Exchange / drug effects*
  • Terpenes / pharmacology*


  • Acyclic Monoterpenes
  • Monoterpenes
  • Mutagens
  • Terpenes
  • beta-myrcene
  • Hypoxanthine Phosphoribosyltransferase