Decatropis bicolor (Zucc.) Radlk essential oil induces apoptosis of the MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell line

BMC Complement Altern Med. 2016 Aug 5:16:266. doi: 10.1186/s12906-016-1136-7.


Background: Decatropis bicolor (Zucc.)Radlk is a plant that has been traditionally used for the treatment of breast cancer in some communities of Mexico. So, the aim of this study was to determine the cytotoxic and apoptotic effect of the essential oil of Decatropis bicolor against breast cancer cell line, MDA-MB-231.

Methods: The essential oil obtained from hydrodestillation of leaves of Decatropis bicolor was studied for its biological activity against breast cancer cells MDA-MB-231 by MTT assay, Hematoxylin-eosin stain, Annexin V-FITC, TUNEL and western blot assays and for its chemical composition by GC-MS.

Results: The results showed a relevant cytotoxic effect of the essential oil towards MDA-MB-231 cells in a dose- and time- dependent manner, with an IC50 of 53.81 ± 1.691 μg/ml but not in the epithelial mammary cell line MCF10A (207.51 ± 3.26 μg/ml). Morphological examination displayed apoptotic characteristics in the treated cells like cell size reduction, membrane blebbing and apoptotic bodies. In addition, the apoptotic rate significantly increased as well as DNA fragmentation and western blot analysis revealed that the essential oil induced apoptosis in the MDA-MB-231 cells via intrinsic pathways due to the activation of Bax, caspases 9 and 3. Phytochemical analysis of the Decatropis bicolor essential oil showed the presence of twenty-three compounds. Major components of the oil were 1,5-cyclooctadiene,3-(methyl-2)propenyl (18.38 %), β-terpineol (8.16 %) and 1-(3-methyl-cyclopent-2-enyl)-cyclohexene (6.12 %).

Conclusions: This study suggests that essential oil of Decatropis bicolor has a potential cytotoxic and antitumoral effect against breast cancer cells, with the presence of potential bioactive compounds. Our results contribute to the validation of the anticancer activity of the plant in Mexican traditional medicine.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Cytotoxic; Essential oil.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Oils, Volatile / chemistry
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Rutaceae / chemistry*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Plant Extracts