Anti-proliferative effects of carvacrol on a human metastatic breast cancer cell line, MDA-MB 231

Phytomedicine. 2010 Jul;17(8-9):581-8. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2009.12.008. Epub 2010 Jan 22.


Purpose: Although the anti-tumor effects of carvacrol have been demonstrated earlier, the exact underlying molecular mechanisms involved in its action have not been defined and in the present study an attempt has been made to identify the mechanism of carvacrol induced cell death in human metastatic breast cancer cells, MDA-MB 231.

Methods: Apoptosis induced by carvacrol was determined based on different assays like MTT assay, Annexin V, mitochondrial membrane potential assay, multicaspase activation assay and cell cycle analysis by flow cytometer. Cleavage of PARP, cytochrome c release and modulation of Bax and Bcl2 ratio by Western blot analysis were also studied.

Results: The study clearly showed induction of apoptosis by carvacrol in MDA-MB 231 cells dose dependently at an IC(50) of 100 microM with a decrease in the mitochondrial membrane potential of the cells resulting in release of cytochrome c from mitochondria, caspase activation and cleavage of PARP.

Conclusion: The data in the present study clearly demonstrated anti-tumor effects of carvacrol on human metastatic breast cancer cells, MDA-MB 231, and that the compound could have a potential therapeutic significance in treating cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / secondary
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Cymenes
  • Cytochromes c / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibitory Concentration 50
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / physiology
  • Monoterpenes / pharmacology
  • Monoterpenes / therapeutic use*
  • Origanum / chemistry
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases / metabolism
  • Thymus Plant / chemistry


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Cymenes
  • Monoterpenes
  • Plant Extracts
  • Cytochromes c
  • carvacrol
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases
  • Caspases