The essential oils from Commiphora species have for centuries been recognized to possess medicinal properties. Here, we performed gas chromatography-mass spectrometry on the essential oil from opoponax (Commiphora guidotti) and identified bisabolene isomers as the main constituents of this essential oil. Opoponax essential oil, a chemical component; β-bisabolene and an alcoholic analogue, α-bisabolol, were tested for their ability to selectively kill breast cancer cells. Only β-bisabolene, a sesquiterpene constituting 5% of the essential oil, exhibited selective cytotoxic activity for mouse cells (IC50 in normal Eph4: >200 µg/ml, MG1361: 65.49 µg/ml, 4T1: 48.99 µg/ml) and human breast cancer cells (IC50 in normal MCF-10A: 114.3 µg/ml, MCF-7: 66.91 µg/ml, MDA-MB-231: 98.39 µg/ml, SKBR3: 70.62 µg/ml and BT474: 74.3 µg/ml). This loss of viability was because of the induction of apoptosis as shown by Annexin V-propidium iodide and caspase-3/7 activity assay. β-bisabolene was also effective in reducing the growth of transplanted 4T1 mammary tumours in vivo (37.5% reduction in volume by endpoint). In summary, we have identified an anti-cancer agent from the essential oil of opoponax that exhibits specific cytotoxicity to both human and murine mammary tumour cells in vitro and in vivo, and this warrants further investigation into the use of β-bisabolene in the treatment of breast cancers.
Keywords: Commiphora guidottii; apoptosis; bisabolene; breast cancer; opoponax; scented myrrh; sesquiterpene.
Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.