Oxidative stress and apoptosis induction in human thyroid carcinoma cells exposed to the essential oil from Pistacia lentiscus aerial parts

PLoS One. 2017 Feb 14;12(2):e0172138. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172138. eCollection 2017.


Background: Essential oils from the aerial parts (leaves, twigs and berries) of Pistacia lentiscus (PLEO) have been well characterized for their antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties; however, poor information exists on their potential anticancer activity.

Methods: Increasing concentrations of PLEO (0.01-0.1% v/v, 80-800 μg/ml) were administered to a wide variety of cultured cancer cells from breast, cervix, colon, liver, lung, prostate, and thyroid carcinomas. Fibroblasts were also included as healthy control cells. Cell viability was monitored by WST-8 assay up to 72 hours after PLEO administration. The intracellular formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), the induction of apoptosis, and the enhancement of chemotherapeutic drug cytotoxicity by PLEO were further investigated in the most responsive cancer cell line.

Results: A dose-dependent reduction of tumor cell viability was observed upon PLEO exposure; while no cytotoxic effect was revealed in healthy fibroblasts. FTC-133 thyroid cancer cells were found to be the most sensitive cells to PLEO treatment; accordingly, an intracellular accumulation of ROS and an activation of both the extrinsic and intrinsic apoptotic pathways were evidenced in FTC-133 cells after PLEO administration. Furthermore, the cytotoxic effect of the antineoplastic drugs cisplatin, 5-fluorouracil and etoposide was enhanced in PLEO-exposed FTC-133 cells.

Conclusion: Taking into account its mode of action, PLEO might be considered as a promising source of natural antitumor agents which might have therapeutic potential in integrated oncology.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / isolation & purification
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Caco-2 Cells
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Oils, Volatile / chemistry
  • Oils, Volatile / isolation & purification
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Pistacia / chemistry*
  • Plant Components, Aerial / chemistry*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Oils, Volatile

Grant support

SC had received a research grant from the onlus RUOTA (Rapallo, GE, Italy). RUOTA had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.