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LE Magazine January 2006


Molecular targets and anticancer potential of indole-3-carbinol and its derivatives.

Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is produced by members of the family Cruciferae, and particularly members of the genus Brassica (e.g., cabbage, radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and daikon). Under acidic conditions, 13C is converted to a series of oligomeric products (among which 3,3’-diindolylmethane is a major component) thought to be responsible for its biological effects in vivo. In vitro, 13C has been shown to suppress the proliferation of various tumor cells including breast cancer, prostate cancer, endometrial cancer, colon cancer, and leukemic cells; induce G1/S arrest of the cell cycle, and induce apoptosis. The cell cycle arrest involves downregulation of cyclin D1, cyclin E, cyclin- dependent kinase (CDK)2, CDK4, and CDK6 and upregulation of p15, p21, and p27. Apoptosis by I3C involves downregulation antiapoptotic gene products, including Bcl-2, Bcl-xL, survivin, inhibitor-of-apoptosis protein (IAP), X chromosome-linked IAP (XIAP), and Fas-associated death domain protein-like interleukin-1-beta-converting enzyme inhibitory protein (FLIP); upregulation of proapoptotic protein Bax; release of micochondrial cytochrome C; and activation of caspase-9 and caspase-3. This agent inhibits the activation of various transcription factors including nuclear factor-kappaB, SP1, estrogen receptor, androgen receptor and nuclear factor-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2). This indole potentiates the effects of tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) through induction of death receptors and synergises with chemotherapeutic agents through downregulation of P-glycoprotein (P-gp). In vivo, I3C was found to be a potent chemopreventive agent for hormonal-dependent cancers such as breast and cervical cancer. These effects are mediated through its ability to induce apoptosis, inhibit DNA-carcinogen adduct formation, and suppress free-radical production, stimulate 2-hydroxylation of estradiol, inhibit invasion and angiogenesis. Numerous studies have indicated that I3C also has a strong hepatoprotective activity against various carcinogens. Initial clinical trials in women have shown that I3C is a promising agent against breast and cervical cancers.

Cell Cycle. 2005 Sep;4(9):1201-15

Effects of indole-3-carbinol and phenethyl isothiocyanate on colon carcinogenesis induced by azoxymethane in rats.

Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) are breakdown products of the glucosinolates glucobrassicin and gluconasturtiin, respectively, and are thought to reduce carcinogen activation by P450 enzymes. To assess the effects of these compounds on colon cancer risk, rats were divided into 5 groups and fed the following diets: control diet (AIN-93G), or diets with PEITC or I3C added to the control diet: High PEITC (3.37 mmols/kg diet -high level of PEITC), low PEITC (0.67 mmols/kg -low level of PEITC), high I3C (6.8 mmols/kg -high level of I3C), and low I3C (1.36 mmols/kg -low level of I3C). Diets were fed for 2 weeks before and 10 weeks after administration of the colon carcinogen azoxymethane. Precancerous lesion (aberrant crypt foci, ACF) number in the distal colon was significantly lower in both high I3C and low I3C groups (6.9 +/- 0.8 and 5.9 +/- 0.59 per cm(2), respectively) when compared to the control group (10.4 +/- 0.9). No significant difference in ACF number was found between either PEITC group and the control group. ACF expressing sialomucin, thought to indicate ACF more likely to progress to tumors, were greater in the high PEITC group (13 +/- 3) than the control (5.6 +/- 2). Mucin-depleted ACF, suggested to have the greatest tumorigenic potential, tended to be lower in the low I3C group (p<0.06) compared to the control group. Mucosal apoptotic and cell proliferation labeling indices did not differ among groups, suggesting that reduction in ACF number by I3C does not involve alterations in mucosal cell kinetics. No significant differences were found among the groups in hepatic cytochrome P450 2E1 (CYP2E1) activity, the first enzyme involved in activation of azoxymethane. However, there was increased activity of NADPH- and NADH reductases with high I3C, enzymes involved in the transfer of reducing equivalents to cytochrome P450. These results suggest that I3C lowers colon cancer risk through a mechanism not involving reduction of carcinogen activation by CYP2E1.

Carcinogenesis. 2005 Aug 19

3,3’-Diindolylmethane, a cruciferous vegetable derived synthetic anti-proliferative compound in thyroid disease.

Considerable epidemiological evidence exists to link thyroid disease with differing patterns of dietary consumption, in particular, cruciferous vegetables. We have been studying the anti-thyroid cancer (TCa) activity of indole-3-carbinol (I3C) found in cruciferous vegetables and its acid catalyzed dimer, 3,3’-diindolylmethane (DIM). There are no studies as yet to elucidate the effect of these compounds on the altered proliferative patterns in goiter or thyroid neoplasia. In this study, we tested the anti-proliferative effects of I3C and DIM on four different thyroid cancer cell lines representative of papillary (B-CPAP and 8505-C) and follicular carcinoma of the thyroid (CGTH-W-1 and ML-1), and primary human goiter cells. Cell survival and IC(50) values for I3C and DIM were calculated by the XTT assay and cell cycle distribution analysis was done by flow cytometry. DIM was found to be a better anti-proliferative agent than I3C in both papillary and follicular TCa resulting in a greater cytotoxic effect at a concentration over three fold lower than predicted by the molar ratio of DIM and I3C. The anti-proliferative activity of DIM in follicular TCa was mediated by a G1 arrest followed by induction of apoptosis. DIM also inhibited the growth of primary goiter cells by 70% compared to untreated controls. Contrary to traditional belief that cruciferous vegetables are “goitrogenic,” DIM has anti-proliferative effects in glandular thyroid proliferative disease. Our preclinical studies provide a strong rationale for the clinical exploration of DIM as an adjuvant to surgery in thyroid proliferative disease.

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2005 Nov 25;337(3):1019-25

Indole-3-carbinol activates the ATM signaling pathway independent of DNA damage to stabilize p53 and induce G1 arrest of human mammary epithelial cells.

The phytochemical indole-3-carbinol (I3C), from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, has been shown to elicit a potent anti-proliferative response in human breast cancer cell lines. Treatment of the immortalized human mammary epithelial cell line MCF10A with I3C induced a G1 cell cycle arrest, elevated p53 tumor suppressor protein levels and stimulated expression of downstream transcriptional target, p21. I3C treatment also elevated p53 levels in several breast cancer cell lines that express mutant p53. I3C did not arrest MCF10A cells stably transfected with dominant-negative p53, establishing a functional requirement for p53. Cell fractionation and immunolocalization studies revealed a large fraction of stabilized p53 protein in the nucleus of I3C-treated MCF10A cells. With I3C treatment, phosphatidyl-inositol-3-kinase family member ataxia telangiectasia-mutated (ATM) was phosphorylated, as were its substrates p53, CHK2 and BRCA1. Phosphorylation of p53 at the N-terminus has previously been shown to disrupt the interaction between p53 and its ubiquitin ligase, MDM2, and therefore stabilizing p53. Coimmunoprecipitation analysis revealed that I3C reduced by 4-fold the level of MDM2 protein that associated with p53. The p53-MDM2 interaction and absence of p21 production were restored in cells treated with I3C and the ATM inhibitor wortmannin. Significantly, I3C does not increase the number of 53BP1 foci or H2AX phosphorylation, indicating that ATM is activated independent of DNA double-strand breaks. Taken together, our results demonstrate that I3C activates ATM signaling through a novel pathway to stimulate p53 phosphorylation and disruption of the p53-MDM2 interaction, which releases p53 to induce the p21 CDK inhibitor and a G1 cell cycle arrest.

Int J Cancer. 2005 Sep 8

3,3’-Diindolylmethane inhibits angiogenesis and the growth of transplantable human breast carcinoma in athymic mice.

Studies have linked the consumption of broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables to a reduced risk of breast cancer. The phytochemical indole-3-carbinol (I3C), present in cruciferous vegetables, and its major acid-catalyzed reaction product 3,3’-diindolylmethane (DIM) have bioactivities relevant to the inhibition of carcinogenesis. In this study, the effect of DIM on angiogenesis and tumorigenesis in a rodent model was investigated. We found that DIM produced a concentration-dependent decrease in proliferation, migration, invasion and capillary tube formation of cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs). Consistent with its antiproliferative effect, which was significant at only 5 microM DIM, this indole caused a G1 cell cycle arrest in actively proliferating HUVECs. Furthermore, DIM downregulated the expression of cyclin-dependent kinases 2 and 6 (CDK2, CDK6), and upregulated the expression of CDK inhibitor, p27(Kip1), in HUVECs. We observed further in a complementary in vivo Matrigel plug angiogenesis assay that, compared with vehicle control, neovascularization was inhibited up to 76% following the administration of 5 mg/kg DIM to female C57BL/6 mice. Finally, this dose of DIM also inhibited the growth of human MCF-7 cell tumor xenografts by up to 64% in female athymic (nu/nu) mice, compared with the vehicle control. This is the first study to show that DIM can strongly inhibit the development of human breast tumor in a xenograft model and to provide evidence for the antiangiogenic properties of this dietary indole.

Carcinogenesis. 2005 Apr;26(4):771-8

Innovative agents in cancer prevention.

There are many facets to cancer prevention: a good diet, weight control and physical activity, a healthy environment, avoidance of carcinogens such as those in tobacco smoke, and screening of populations at risk to allow early detection. But there is also the possibility of using drugs or naturally occurring compounds to prevent initiation of, or to suppress, tumour growth. Only a few such agents have been used to date in the clinic with any success, and these include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for colon, finasteride for prostate and tamoxifen or raloxifene for breast tumours. An ideal chemopreventive agent would restore normal growth control to a preneoplastic or cancerous cell population by modifying aberrant signalling pathways or inducing apoptosis (or both) in cells beyond repair. Characteristics for such an agent include selectivity for damaged or transformed cells, good bioavailability and more than one mechanism of action to foil redundancy or crosstalk in signalling pathways. As more research effort is being targeted towards this area, the distinction between chemotherapeutic and chemopreventive agents is blurring. Chemotherapeutic drugs are now being designed to target over- or under-active signalling molecules within cancer cells, a philosophy which is just as relevant in chemoprevention. Development of dietary agents is particularly attractive because of our long-standing exposure to them, their relative lack of toxicity, and encouraging indications from epidemiology. The carcinogenic process relies on the cell’s ability to proliferate abnormally, evade apoptosis, induce angiogenesis and metastasise to distant sites. In vitro studies with a number of different diet-derived compounds suggest that there are molecules capable of modulating each of these aspects of tumour growth. However, on the negative side many of them have rather poor bioavailability. The challenge is to uncover their multiple mechanisms of action in order to predict their efficacy, to learn how to use them effectively in combination, and in some cases to redesign them to improve potency or bioavailability. These ideas are illustrated by dietary agents such as indole-3-carbinol (I3C), epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), curcumin and resveratrol, all of which appear to have a number of different molecular targets, impinging on several signalling pathways. Ultimately it may be possible not only to suppress tumours and to extend quality of life by administering appropriate diet-derived molecules, but also to refine the definition of a cancer chemopreventive diet.

Recent Results Cancer Res. 2005;166:257-75

Anti-carcinogenic and anti-metastatic properties of indole-3-carbinol in prostate cancer.

Indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a compound present as glucobracissin in cruciferous vegetables has anticancer activities which is in line with some of the epidemiological evidence that suggests a beneficial effect of consumption of cruciferous vegetables on cancer incidence and progression. The precise target of indole-3-carbinol has not been determined. We examined the effect of I3C on prostate cancer in a well-defined R3327 model using Copenhagen rats and the transplantable cell line, MAT-LyLu. This cell line derived from a tumor in Copenhagen rats is androgen independent and metastasizes to the lung and lymph nodes. Tumors were induced in Copenhagen rats by injecting MAT-LyLu subcutaneously and the animals treated with I3C that was administered either intraperitoneally or intravenously, in order to achieve maximal systemic exposure. This was a departure from the traditional chemopreventive route of indole-3-carbinol where the compound was incorporated in the diet. Our results indicate that I3C inhibited the incidence, growth and metastases of MAT-LyLu cells and both i.p. and i.v. injections of I3C were equally effective. Statistical analysis (Kaplan-Meier curves) clearly indicates a tumor-free and overall survival benefit as a result of treatment with I3C. These studies show for the first time that I3C in an injectible form has anti-prostate cancer activity.

Oncol Rep. 2005 Jan;13(1):89-93

Inhibition of nuclear translocation of nuclear factor-{kappa}B contributes to 3,3’-diindolylmethane-induced apoptosis in breast cancer cells.

Dietary indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a natural compound present in vegetables of the genus Brassica, showed clinical benefits and caused apoptosis in breast cancer cells. Our laboratory and others have shown that I3C induces apoptosis in breast cancer cells mediated by inactivation of Akt and nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) pathway. 3,3’-Diindolylmethane (DIM), a major in vivo acid-catalyzed condensation product of I3C, also showed some benefit in breast cancer. However, the precise molecular mechanism(s) by which DIM induces apoptosis in breast cancer cells has not been fully elucidated. Hence, we investigated whether DIM-induced apoptosis of breast cancer cells could also be mediated by inactivation of Akt and NF-kappaB. We found that DIM induces apoptotic processes in MCF10A derived malignant (MCF10CA1a) cell lines but not in nontumorigenic parental MCF10A cells. DIM specifically inhibits Akt kinase activity and abrogates the epidermal growth factor-induced activation of Akt in breast cancer cells, similar to those observed for I3C. We also found that DIM reduces phosphorylation of IkappaBalpha, an inhibitor of NF-kappaB. Our confocal microscopy study clearly showed that DIM blocks the translocation of p65, a subunit of NF-kappaB to the nucleus. DNA binding analysis and transfection studies with IkappaB kinase cDNA revealed that overexpression of IkappaB kinase mediates IkappaBalpha phosphorylation, which activates NF-kappaB, and this activation was completely abrogated by DIM treatment. Taken together, these results showed for the first time that the inactivation of Akt and NF-kappaB activity also plays important roles in DIM-induced apoptosis in breast cancer cells, which seems to be more relevant to in vivo situations.

Cancer Res. 2005 Jan 1;65(1):364-71

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