Background: Several secondary metabolites from herbal nutrient products act as weak estrogens (phytoestrogens), competing with endogenous estrogen for binding to the estrogen receptors and inhibiting steroid converting enzymes. However, it is still unclear whether these compounds elicit estrogen dependent transcription of genes at physiological concentrations. Methods: We compare the effects of physiological concentrations (100 nM) of the two phytoestrogens Enterolactone and Quercetin and the suspected phytoestrogen Curcumin on gene expression in the breast cancer cell line MCF7 with the effects elicited by 17-β-estradiol (E2). Results: All three phytocompounds have weak effects on gene transcription; most of the E2 genes respond to the phytoestrogens in the same direction though to a much lesser extent and in the order Curcumin > Quercetin > Enterolactone. Gene regulation induced by these compounds was low for genes strongly induced by E2 and similar to the latter for genes only weakly regulated by the classic estrogen. Of interest with regard to the treatment of menopausal symptoms, the survival factor Birc5/survivin and the oncogene MYBL1 are strongly induced by E2 but only marginally by phytoestrogens. Conclusion: This approach demonstrates estrogenic effects of putative phytoestrogens at physiological concentrations and shows, for the first time, estrogenic effects of Curcumin.
- Breast cancer
- Gene expression profiling
- Reference profile correlation
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