Phytoestrogens induce differential effects on both normal and malignant human breast cells in vitro

F-P Chen, M-H Chien
Climacteric: the Journal of the International Menopause Society 2014, 17 (6): 682-91

OBJECTIVE: To explore the effect and pathway of phytoestrogens in vitro on the growth of both normal and malignant breast cells.

METHODS: Normal breast MCF-10A cells and breast cancer MCF-7 cells were incubated with 10 (-10)-10(-4)  mol/l genistein, resveratrol, and quercetin (plasma concentrations in human: 10 nmol/l-10 μmol/l) for 48 h and were then extracted for a cell proliferation assay (MTT), and for a cell death assay (TUNEL) assay. The proteins involved in the proliferative and apoptotic pathways were evaluated by Western blot analysis. Additionally, a comparison with 17β-estradiol as well as an evaluation of the differential effects on estrogen receptors (ER) α and β were performed.

RESULTS: MCF-7 cell proliferation was significantly inhibited at the concentrations greater than 10(-4) mol/l for all three phytoestrogens and from 10 (-5) mol/l for resveratrol and quercetin. MCF-10A cell proliferation was significantly increased at the concentrations from 10 (-8) to 10 (-5) mol/l for genistein and resveratrol and only at 10 (-5) mol/l for quercetin. Apoptotic cells were significantly increased by these phytoestrogens in the MCF-7 cells. At a concentration of 10 (-7)  mol/l of these phytoestrogens, a significant reduction of PI3K and Akt and an increase of Fas ligand, Fas-associated protein with death domain, cytochrome C, truncated Bid, caspase-9, and caspase-3 were noted in the MCF-7; PI3K and Akt were significantly increased in the MCF-10A. ERβ expression was significantly elevated in MCF-10A and MCF-7 with these phytoestrogens. The effects of estradiol on normal and malignant breast cells were completely opposite to those of phytoestrogens.

CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates that phytoestrogens have antiproliferative effects on breast cancer cells via an ER-dependent mechanism, even at low concentrations, but are also capable of maintaining the survival of normal breast cell via ER-independent or other mechanisms.

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