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Bergamot (Citrus bergamia Risso) fruit extracts and identified components alter expression of interleukin 8 gene in cystic fibrosis bronchial epithelial cell lines

Monica Borgatti1, Irene Mancini1, Nicoletta Bianchi2, Alessandra Guerrini2, Ilaria Lampronti1, Damiano Rossi2, Gianni Sacchetti2* and Roberto Gambari1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Ferrara, Via Fossato di Mortara 74, Ferrara, 44121, Italy

2 Department of Biology and Evolution, Agro-technological and pharmaceutical Resources (Agri-Unife), University of Ferrara, Corso Ercole I d'Este, Ferrara, 44121, Italy

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BMC Biochemistry 2011, 12:15  doi:10.1186/1471-2091-12-15

Published: 15 April 2011



Cystic fibrosis (CF) airway pathology is a fatal, autosomal, recessive genetic disease characterized by extensive lung inflammation. After induction by TNF-α, elevated concentrations of several pro-inflammatory cytokines (i.e. IL-6, IL-1β) and chemokines (i.e. IL-8) are released from airway epithelial cells. In order to reduce the excessive inflammatory response in the airways of CF patients, new therapies have been developed and in this respect, medicinal plant extracts have been studied. In this article we have investigated the possible use of bergamot extracts (Citrus bergamia Risso) and their identified components to alter the expression of IL-8 associated with the cystic fibrosis airway pathology.


The extracts were chemically characterized by 1H-NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance), GC-FID (gas chromatography-flame ionization detector), GC-MS (gas chromatography-mass spectrometry) and HPLC (high pressure liquid chromatography). Both bergamot extracts and main detected chemical constituents were assayed for their biological activity measuring (a) cytokines and chemokines in culture supernatants released from cystic fibrosis IB3-1 cells treated with TNF-α by Bio-Plex cytokine assay; (b) accumulation of IL-8 mRNA by real-time PCR.


The extracts obtained from bergamot (Citrus bergamia Risso) epicarps contain components displaying an inhibitory activity on IL-8. Particularly, the most active molecules were bergapten and citropten. These effects have been confirmed by analyzing mRNA levels and protein release in the CF cellular models IB3-1 and CuFi-1 induced with TNF-α or exposed to heat-inactivated Pseudomonas aeruginosa.


These obtained results clearly indicate that bergapten and citropten are strong inhibitors of IL-8 expression and could be proposed for further studies to verify possible anti-inflammatory properties to reduce lung inflammation in CF patients.