Antiproliferative Effects of Essential Oils and Their Major Constituents in Human Renal Adenocarcinoma and Amelanotic Melanoma Cells

Cell Prolif. 2008 Dec;41(6):1002-1012. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2184.2008.00561.x.


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to evaluate cytotoxic activity of Platycladus orientalis, Prangos asperula and Cupressus sempervirens ssp. pyramidalis essential oils and to identify active components involved in inhibition of population growth of human cancer cell lines.

Materials and methods: Essential oils were obtained by hydrodistillation and were analysed by gas chromatography and gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. Antiproliferative activity was tested on amelanotic melanoma C32 cells and on renal cell adenocarcinoma cells, using the sulphorhodamine B assay.

Results: Cupressus sempervirens ssp. pyramidalis leaf oil exerted the highest cytotoxic activity with an IC(50)value of 104.90 microg/mL against C32, followed by activity of P. orientalis and P. asperula on the renal adenocarcinoma cell line (IC(50) of 121.93 and 139.17 microg/mL, respectively). P. orientalis essential oil was also active against amelanotic melanoma with an IC(50) of 330.04 microg/mL. Three identified terpenes, linalool, beta-caryophyllene and alpha-cedrol, were found to be active on both cell lines tested.

Conclusions: Our findings provide novel insights into the field of cytotoxic properties of essential oils. This study provided evidence on how cytotoxic activity of the oils is not always related to their major constituents, except for lower activity found in both cell lines for alpha-cedrol. Interestingly, beta-caryophyllene and linalool exhibited comparable IC(50) values to the commercial drug vinblastine on the ACHN cell line. This opens a new field of investigation to discover mechanisms responsible for the observed activity.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / pathology*
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cupressus / chemistry
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / pathology
  • Melanoma, Amelanotic / drug therapy*
  • Melanoma, Amelanotic / pathology*
  • Oils, Volatile / chemistry
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology
  • Oils, Volatile / therapeutic use*
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Oils / chemistry
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology
  • Plant Oils / therapeutic use
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Terpenes / pharmacology


  • Oils, Volatile
  • Plant Oils
  • Terpenes