Extracts from lemon seed were investigated for the radical scavenging activity and apoptotic effects in human breast adenocarcinoma (MCF-7) cells and non-malignant breast (MCF-12F) cells for the first time. Defatted seed powder was successively extracted with ethyl acetate (EtOAc), acetone, methanol (MeOH), and MeOH:water (80:20). The chemical constituents were identified and quantified by LC-MS and HPLC analysis, respectively. The highest radical scavenging activity of 62.2% and 91.3% was exhibited by MeOH:water (80:20) at 833μg/mL in 1,1-diphenyl-2-picryl hydrazyl (DPPH) and 2,2'-azino-di-(3-ethylbenzothiazoline)-6-sulfonic acid (ABTS(+)), respectively. In addition, the MeOH:water (80:20) extract showed the highest (29.1%, P<0.01) inhibition of MCF-7 cells in MTT assay. Treatment of the MeOH:water (80:20) extract induced DNA fragmentation and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) cleavage. Increased levels of Bax and cytosolic cytochrome C and decreased levels of Bcl2 were also observed in MeOH:water (80:20) treated MCF-7 cells. In conclusion, the MeOH:water (80:20) extract from lemon seed has potent antioxidant activity and induces apoptosis in MCF-7 cells, leading to the inhibition of proliferation. These results suggest that aglycones and glucosides of the limonoids and flavonoid present in MeOH:water (80:20) extract may potentially serve as a chemopreventive agent for breast cancer.
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