Cytotoxicity and gene induction by some essential oils in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Bakkali F, Averbeck S, Averbeck D, Zhiri A, Idaomar M
Mutation Research, 2005


In order to get an insight into the possible genotoxicity of essential oils (EOs) used in traditional pharmacological applications we tested five different oils extracted from the medicinal plants Origanum compactum, Coriandrum sativum, Artemisia herba alba, Cinnamomum camphora (Ravintsara aromatica) and Helichrysum italicum (Calendula officinalis) for genotoxic effects using the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Clear cytotoxic effectswere observed in the diploid yeast strain D7, with the cells being more sensitive to EOs in exponential than in stationary growth phase. The cytotoxicity decreased in the following order: Origanum compactum>Coriandrum sativum>Artemisia herba alba>Cinnamomum camphora>Helichrysum italicum. In the same order, all EOs, except that derived from Helichrysum italicum, clearly induced cytoplasmic petite mutations indicating damage to mitochondrial DNA. However, no nuclear genetic events such as point mutations or mitotic intragenic or intergenic recombination were induced. The capacity of EOs to induce nuclear DNA damage-responsive genes was tested using suitable Lac-Z fusion strains for RNR3 and RAD51, which are genes involved in DNA metabolism and DNA repair, respectively. At equitoxic doses, all EOs demonstrated significant gene induction, approximately the same as that caused by hydrogen peroxide, but much lower than that caused by methyl methanesulfonate (MMS). EOs affect mitochondrial structure and function and can stimulate the transcriptional expression of DNA damage-responsive genes. The induction of mitochondrial damage by EOs appears to be closely linked to overall cellular cytotoxicity and appears to mask the occurrence of nuclear genetic events. EO-induced cytotoxicity involves oxidative stress, as is evident from the protection observed in the presence of ROS inhibitors such as glutathione, catalase or the iron-chelating agent deferoxamine.


Bakkali F, Averbeck S, Averbeck D, Et Al. Cytotoxicity and gene induction by some essential oils in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Mutat Res. 2005;585(1-2):1-13.

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