Background: Citrus bioactive compounds, as active anticancer agents, have been under focus by several studies worldwide. However, the underlying genes responsible for the anticancer potential have not been sufficiently highlighted.
Objectives: The current study investigated the gene expression profile of hepatocellular carcinoma, HepG2, cells after treatment with Limonene.
Methods: The concentration that killed 50% of HepG2 cells was used to elucidate the genetic mechanisms of limonene anticancer activity. The apoptotic induction was detected by flow cytometry and confocal fluorescence microscope. Two of the pro-apoptotic events, caspase-3 activation and phosphatidylserine translocation were manifested by confocal fluorescence microscopy. Highthroughput real-time PCR was used to profile 1023 cancer-related genes in 16 different gene families related to the cancer development.
Results: In comparison to untreated cells, limonene increased the percentage of apoptotic cells up to 89.61%, by flow cytometry, and 48.2% by fluorescence microscopy. There was a significant limonene- driven differential gene expression of HepG2 cells in 15 different gene families. Limonene was shown to significantly (>2log) up-regulate and down-regulate 14 and 59 genes, respectively. The affected gene families, from the most to the least affected, were apoptosis induction, signal transduction, cancer genes augmentation, alteration in kinases expression, inflammation, DNA damage repair, and cell cycle proteins.
Conclusion: The current study reveals that limonene could be a promising, cheap, and effective anticancer compound. The broad spectrum of limonene anticancer activity is interesting for anticancer drug development. Further research is needed to confirm the current findings and to examine the anticancer potential of limonene along with underlying mechanisms on different cell lines.
Keywords: Anticancer, cancer-related genes, flavonoids, HepG2, high-throughput PCR, limonene, tumor suppressor.