Original Article

Crosstalk of ROS/RNS and autophagy in silibinininduced apoptosis of MCF-7 human breast cancer cells in vitro

Nan ZHENG, Lu LIU, Wei-wei LIU, Fei LI, Toshihiko HAYASHI, Shin-ichi TASHIRO, Satoshi ONODERA, Takashi IKEJIMA
DOI: 10.1038/aps.2016.117


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS) play important roles in regulating cell survival and death. Silibinin is a natural polyphenolic flavonoid isolated from milk thistle with anti-tumor activities, but it was found to induce cytoprotective ROS/RNS in human breast cancer MCF-7 cells. Furthermore, treatment with silibinin down-regulates ERα expression in MCF-7 cells, and inducing both autophagy and apoptosis. In this study we explored the relationship between ER-associated pathways and RNS/ROS in MCF-7 cells. We also investigated the molecular mechanisms underlying the reciprocal regulation between ROS/RNS levels and autophagy in the death signaling pathways in silibinin-treated MCF-7 cells. Silibinin (100–300 μmol/L) dose-dependently increased ROS/RNS generation in MCF-7 cells (with high expression of ERα and low expression of ERβ) and MDA-MB-231 cells (with low expression of ERα and high expression of ERβ). Scavenging ROS/RNS significantly enhanced silibinin-induced death of MCF-7 cells, but not MDA-MB-231 cells. Pharmacological activation or blockade of ERα in MCF-7 cells significantly enhanced or decreased, respectively, silibinin-induced ROS/RNS generation, whereas activation or block of ERβ had no effect. In silibinin-treated MCF-7 cells, exposure to the ROS/RNS donators decreased the autophagic levels, whereas inhibition of autophagy with 3-MA significantly increased ROS/RNS levels. We further showed that increases in ROS/RNS generation, ERα activation or autophagy down-regulation had protective roles in silibinintreated MCF-7 cells. Under a condition of ERα activation, scavenging ROS/RNS or stimulating autophagy enhanced the cytotoxicity of silibinin. These results demonstrate the existence of two conflicting pathways in silibinin-induced death of MCF-7 cells: one involves the down-regulation of ERα and thereby augmenting the pro-apoptotic autophagy downstream, leading to cell death; the other involves the up-regulation of pro-survival ROS/RNS; and that the generation of ROS/RNS and autophagy form a negative feedback loop whose balance is regulated by ERα.
Keywords: human breast cancer; MCF-7 cells; MDA-MB-231 cells; silibinin; ERα; reactive oxygen species (ROS); reactive nitrogen species (RNS); autophagy; apoptosis

Article Options

Download Citation

Cited times in Scopus