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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Identification of metabolites of the antitumor agent d-limonene capable of inhibiting protein isoprenylation and cell growth.

Limonene has been shown to be an effective, nontoxic chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic agent in chemically induced rat mammary-cancer models. The present study characterized circulating metabolites of limonene in female rats and determined their effects on cell growth. Metabolism of limonene was analyzed in plasma extracts by gas chromatography. Rapid conversion of limonene to two major metabolites was detected. These metabolites comprised more than 80% of the circulating limonene-derived material at 1 h after administration and thereafter, whereas limonene itself accounted for only 15%. The metabolites were characterized by mass spectroscopy and infrared spectroscopy. The probable structures were synthesized, and identities were confirmed by comparison of retention times and mass spectra. The two major circulating metabolites of limonene were found to be perillic acid and dihydroperillic acid. We have previously reported that limonene, perillic acid, and dihydroperillic acid inhibit the posttranslational isoprenylation of p21ras and other 21- to 26-kDa cell-growth-associated proteins in NIH3T3 cells and in mammary epithelial cells. In the present study, perillic acid was found to inhibit cell growth in a dose-dependent manner. Thus, perillic acid and dihydroperillic acid, the two major circulating metabolites of limonene in the rat, are more potent inhibitors of protein isoprenylation than is limonene, and perillic acid is also a more potent inhibitor of cell growth. These data raise the possibility that the antitumor effects of limonene in vivo may be mediated via perillic acid and, perhaps, other metabolites.[1]


  1. Identification of metabolites of the antitumor agent d-limonene capable of inhibiting protein isoprenylation and cell growth. Crowell, P.L., Lin, S., Vedejs, E., Gould, M.N. Cancer Chemother. Pharmacol. (1992) [Pubmed]
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