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Open Access Research article

In vivo induction of phase II detoxifying enzymes, glutathione transferase and quinone reductase by citrus triterpenoids

Jose L Perez1, Guddarangavvanahally K Jayaprakasha1, Adriana Cadena2, Elvia Martinez2, Hassan Ahmad12* and Bhimanagouda S Patil1*

Author Affiliations

1 Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center, Department of Horticultural Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station TX 77843-2119, USA

2 Department of Chemistry, University of Texas Pan-American, Edinburg TX 78539, USA

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2010, 10:51  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-10-51

Published: 17 September 2010



Several cell culture and animal studies demonstrated that citrus bioactive compounds have protective effects against certain types of cancer. Among several classes of citrus bioactive compounds, limonoids were reported to prevent different types of cancer. Furthermore, the structures of citrus limonoids were reported to influence the activity of phase II detoxifying enzymes. The purpose of the study was to evaluate how variations in the structures of citrus limonoids (namely nomilin, deacetyl nomilin, and isoobacunoic acid) and a mixture of limonoids would influence phase II enzyme activity in excised tissues from a mouse model.


In the current study, defatted sour orange seed powder was extracted with ethyl acetate and subjected to silica gel chromatography. The HPLC, NMR and mass spectra were used to elucidate the purity and structure of compounds. Female A/J mice were treated with three limonoids and a mixture in order to evaluate their effect on phase II enzymes in four different tissues. Assays for glutathione S-transferase and NAD(P)H: quinone reductase (QR) were used to evaluate induction of phase II enzymatic activity.


The highest induction of GST against 1-chloro-2,4-dinitrobenzene (CDNB) was observed in stomach (whole), 58% by nomilin, followed by 25% isoobacunoic acid and 19% deacetyl nomilin. Deacetyl nomilin in intestine (small) as well as liver significantly reduced GST activity against CDNB. Additionally isoobacunoic acid and the limonoid mixture in liver demonstrated a significant reduction of GST activity against CDNB. Nomilin significantly induced GST activity against 4-nitroquinoline 1-oxide (4NQO), intestine (280%) and stomach (75%) while deacetyl nomilin showed significant induction only in intestine (73%). Induction of GST activity was also observed in intestine (93%) and stomach (45%) treated with the limonoid mixture. Finally, a significant induction of NAD(P)H: quinone reductase (QR) activity was observed by the limonoid mixture in stomach (200%). In addition, the deacetyl nomilin treatment group displayed an increase in QR activity in liver (183%) and intestine (22%).


The results of the present study suggests that, dietary intake of citrus limonoids may provide a protective effect against the onset of various cancers by inducing the activity of certain phase II detoxifying enzymes in specific organs.