Antimicrobial activity and cytotoxicity towards cancer cells of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil

  • Xia Liu
  • Yuangang Zu
  • Yujie FuEmail author
  • Liping Yao
  • Chengbo Gu
  • Wei Wang
  • Thomas Efferth
Original Paper


Antimicrobial and in vitro anti-tumor activities of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil (TTO) were analyzed. The results indicated that TTO possessed significant antimicrobial activity towards all tested microorganisms except Aspergillus niger. The minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of TTO towards Staphylococcus epidermidi, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli and Candida albicans was 0.25% (v/v). Time kinetic experiments showed that Staphylococcus epidermidi, Escherichia coli and Candida albicans were completely killed after exposure to TTO at 2× MIC for 1, 4 and 8 h, repectively. TTO also exhibited strong cytotoxicity towards human lung cancer cell line (A549), human breast cancer cell line (MCF-7) and human prostate cancer cell line (PC-3). The IC50 values obtained were 0.012% (v/v), 0.031% (v/v) and 0.037% (v/v), respectively. Flow cytometric analysis demonstrated that TTO restrained the cell cycle progression of PC-3 and MCF-7 cell lines at the G0/G1 phase and A549 cell at the S phase.


Antimicrobial activity Cell cycle Cytotoxicity to tumor cells Melaleuca alternifolia (MyrtaceaeTea tree oil 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial supports from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (30770231), National Key Technology R & D Program (2006BAD18B0401), the Agriculture Commercialization of Research Findings Foundation (05EFN21700432), Innovative Program for Importation of International Advanced Agricultural Science and Technology, Nation Forestry Bureau (2006-4-75), and Research Foundation for Science and Technology Innovation Talents of Harbin (2006RFXXS001).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xia Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yuangang Zu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yujie Fu
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Liping Yao
    • 1
    • 2
  • Chengbo Gu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wei Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Thomas Efferth
    • 3
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Forest Plant Ecology, Ministry of EducationNortheast Forestry UniversityHarbinChina
  2. 2.Engineering Research Center of Forest Bio-Preparation, Ministry of EducationNortheast Forestry UniversityHarbinPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.German Cancer Research CenterHeidelbergGermany

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