Journal of Chinese Pharmaceutical Sciences ›› 2020, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (7): 443-454.DOI: 10.5246/jcps.2020.07.042

• Review •     Next Articles

Nobiletin and tangeretin (citrus polymethoxyflavones): an overview on their chemistry, pharmacology and cytotoxic activities against breast cancer

Eric Wei Chiang Chan1*, Oi Yoon Michelle Soo1, Yong Hui Tan1, Siu Kuin Wong2, Hung Tuck Chan3   

  1. 1. Faculty of Applied Sciences, UCSI University, 56000 Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    2. School of Foundation Studies, Xiamen University Malaysia, Bandar Sunsuria, 43900 Sepang, Selangor, Malaysia
    3. Secretariat of the International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems (ISME), Faculty of Agriculture, University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa 903-0129, Japan
  • Received:2020-03-14 Revised:2020-04-20 Online:2020-07-31 Published:2020-05-12
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  • About author:Dr. Eric Chan, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Applied Sciences, UCSI University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, obtained his PhD (Natural Product Chemistry) from Monash University Malaysia in 2009. To date, Dr. Eric Chan has 88 publications in international refereed journals with 66 (6 in JCPS) as the lead author. His publications have received more than 1450 citations in Scopus and 3000 citations in Google Scholar. He was one of the Top 5 Competitors of the Elsevier Green and Sustainable Chemistry Challenge 2015, out of 500 proposals submitted globally. In April 2016, he presented his proposal at the Green and Sustainable Chemistry Conference in Berlin, Germany. In the same month, he was awarded the Promising Researcher Award by UCSI University.


The fruit peel of Citrus species (Chenpi), particularly those of mandarin oranges, is a useful source of food and medicine in China. Flavonoids from the citrus fruit peel are mainly polymethoxyflavones (PMFs), of which nobiletin and tangeretin are the most abundant components. In the present review, we summarized the cytotoxic activities of these two PMFs to breast cancer cells. Studies have reported that these two compounds inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells by inducing apoptosis, cytostatic cell death and cell cycle arrest, or by inhibiting cell proliferation, metastasis and tumour angiogenesis, depending on the molecular subtypes of breast cancer. In vitro and in vivo cytotoxic activities involve different molecular targets and signalling pathways. Analyses on the structure-activity relationship (SAR) of nobiletin and tangeretin have shown that the presence of a methoxy group at C8 and a hydroxyl group at C3 or C5 are essential for anti-proliferative activity. Some future perspectives and research needs are suggested. Sources of information are from PubMed, PubMed Central, Science Direct, Google Scholar, J-Stage, PubChem and CNKI using keyword search.

Key words: Polymethoxylated flavones, Nobiletin, Tangeretin, Breast cancer cells, Structure-activity relationship

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