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Life Extension Magazine

January 2002


Indole-3-carbinol is a negative regulator of estrogen receptor-alpha signaling in human tumor cells.

Estrogen, via its binding to the estrogen receptor (ER), plays an important role in breast cancer cell proliferation and tumor development. Indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a compound occurring naturally in cruciferous vegetables, exhibits a potent antitumor activity via its regulation of estrogen activity and metabolism. This study was designed to determine the effect of I3C on the potential to inhibit the ER-alpha. Using a reporter gene driven by the estrogen receptor, I3C (10-125 micromol/L) significantly repressed the 17ss-estradiol (E2)-activated ER-alpha signaling in a dose-dependent manner. I3C and breast cancer susceptibility gene 1 (BRCA1) synergistically inhibited transcriptional activity of ER-alpha. Moreover, I3C down-regulated the expression of the estrogen-responsive genes, pS2 and cathepsin-D, and up-regulated BRCA1. The inhibitory effects of I3C did not contribute to its cytotoxic effects because these activities were observed at less than toxic concentrations. These results further suggest that antitumor activities of I3C are associated not only with its regulation of estrogen activity and metabolism, but also its modulation of ER transcription activity.

J Nutr 2000 Dec;130(12):2927-31

Oligomerization of indole-3-carbinol in aqueous acid.

Indole-3-carbinol [I3C, also called 3-(hydroxymethyl)indole] is a naturally occurring modulator of carcinogenesis with a biological activity that is at least partially dependent on its conversion to active substances in acidic media. We compared the identities of the major oligomeric products of I3C produced under conditions approximating those found in gastric juice with the reported identities of products of 3-substituted indoles produced under enzymatic and other nonenzymatic conditions. After a 10-min treatment in aqueous HCl solution, I3C was converted in 18% yield to a mixture of acetonitrile-soluble products, the major components of which (as determined by HPLC) were diindol-3-ylmethane (5.9%), 5,6,11,12,17,18-hexahydrocyclononal[1,2-b:4,5-b’:7,8-b”]triindo le (2.0%), and [2-(indol-3-ylmethyl)indol-3-yl]indol-3-ylmethane (5.9%). Tentative assignments were made for 3,3-bis(indol-3-ylmethyl)indolenine (0.59%), a symmetrical cyclic tetramer (0.64%), and a linear tetramer (1.1%). Indolo[3,2-b]carbazole (ICZ) was formed slowly in aqueous acidic solutions in low yields (2.0 ppm) which increased to greater than 90 ppm following addition of an organic solvent [tetrahydrofuran (THF) or dimethylformamide (DMF)] to a neutralized solution. Relative yields of trimers vs dimer increased with decreasing pH and with decreasing starting concentration of I3C. Evidence is presented that ICZ formation may not involve radical intermediates as is characteristic of photodynamic processes. A mechanistic rationale is presented for the formation of the identified products.

Chem Res Toxicol 1992 Mar-Apr;5(2):188-93

Cytostatic and antiestrogenic effects of 2-(indol-3-ylmethyl)-3,3’-diindolylmethane, a major in vivo product of dietary indole-3-carbinol.

Under acidic conditions, indole-3-carbinol (13C) is converted to a series of oligomeric products thought to be responsible for the biological effects of dietary 13C. Chromatographic separation of the crude acid mixture of 13C, guided by cell proliferation assay in human MCF-7 cells, resulted in the isolation of 2-(indol-3-ylmethyl)-3,3’-diindolylmethane (LTr-1) as a major antiproliferative component. LTr-1 inhibited the growth of both estrogen-dependent (MCF-7) and -independent (MDA-MB-231) breast cancer cells by approximately 60% at a non-lethal concentration of 25 microM. LTr-1 had no apparent effect on the proliferation of MCF-7 cells in the absence of estrogen. LTr-1 was a weak ligand for the estrogen receptor (ER) (IC50 70 microM) and efficiently inhibited the estradiol (E2)-induced binding of the ER to its cognate DNA responsive element. The antagonist effects of LTr-1 also were exhibited in assays of endogenous pS2 gene expression and in cells transiently transfected with an estrogen-responsive reporter construct (pERE-vit-CAT). LTr-1 activated both binding of the aryl hydrocarbon (Ah) receptor to its cognate DNA responsive element and expression of the Ah receptor-responsive gene CYP1A1. LTr-1 was a competitive inhibitor of CYP1A1-dependent ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase (EROD) activity. In summary, these results demonstrated that LTr-1, a major in vivo product of I3C, could inhibit the proliferation of both estrogen-dependent and -independent breast tumor cells and that LTr-1 is an antagonist of estrogen receptor function and a weak agonist of Ah receptor function.

Biochem Pharmacol 1999 Sep 1;58(5):825-34

Ligand-independent activation of estrogen receptor function by 3, 3’-diindolylmethane in human breast cancer cells.

3,3’-Diindolylmethane (DIM), a major in vivo product of acid-catalyzed oligomerization of indole-3-carbinol (I3C), is a promising anticancer agent present in vegetables of the Brassica genus. We investigated the effects of DIM on estrogen-regulated events in human breast cancer cells and found that DIM was a promoter-specific activator of estrogen receptor (ER) function in the absence of 17beta-estradiol (E(2)). DIM weakly inhibited the E(2)-induced proliferation of ER-containing MCF-7 cells and induced proliferation of these cells in the absence of steroid, by approximately 60% of the E(2) response. DIM had little effect on proliferation of ER-deficient MDA-MB-231 cells, suggesting that it is not generally toxic at these concentrations. Although DIM did not bind to the ER in this concentration range, as shown by a competitive ER binding assay, it activated the ER to a DNA-binding species. DIM increased the level of transcripts for the endogenous pS2 gene and activated the estrogen-responsive pERE-vit-CAT and pS2-tk-CAT reporter plasmids in transiently transfected MCF-7 cells. In contrast, DIM failed to activate transcription of the simple E(2)- and diethylstilbesterol-responsive reporter construct pATC2. The estrogen antagonist ICI 182780 (7alpha-[9-[(4,4,5,5, 5-pentafluoropentyl)sulfonyl]nonyl]-estra-1,3,5(10)-triene-3, 17beta-diol) was effective against DIM-induced transcriptional activity of the pERE-vit-CAT reporter, which further supports the hypothesis that DIM is acting through the ER. We demonstrated that ligand-independent activation of the ER in MCF-7 cells could be produced following treatment with the D1 dopamine receptor agonist SKF-82958 [(+/-)6-chloro-7,8-dihydroxy-3-allyl-1-phenyl-2,3,4, 5-tetrahydro-1H-3-benzazepinehydrobromide]. We also demonstrated that the agonist effects of SKF-82958 and DIM, but not of E(2), could be blocked by co-treatment with the protein kinase A (PKA) inhibitor H-89 (N-[2-(p-bromocinnamylamino)ethyl]-5-isoquinolinesulfonamide). These results have uncovered a promoter-specific, ligand-independent activation of ER signaling for DIM that may require activation by PKA, and suggest that this major I3C product may be a selective activator of ER function.

Biochem Pharmacol 2000 Jul 15;60(2):167-77

Aryl hydrocarbon receptor-mediated antiestrogenic and antitumorigenic activity of diindolylmethane.

Phytochemicals such as indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and sulforaphane are components of cruciferous vegetables which exhibit antitumorigenic activity associated with altered carcinogen metabolism and detoxification. Diindolylmethane (DIM) is a major acid-catalyzed metabolite of I3C formed in the gut that binds to the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) and treatment of MCF-7 human breast cancer cells with 10-50 microM DIM resulted in rapid formation of the nuclear AhR complex and induction of CYP1A1 gene expression was observed at concentrations >50 microM. Previous studies have demonstrated that 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), a high affinity AhR ligand, inhibits 17beta-estradiol (E2)-induced responses in MCF-7 cells and growth of E2-dependent 7,12-dimethylbenzanthracene (DMBA)-induced mammary tumors in female Sprague-Dawley rats. Results of this study show that like TCDD, DIM inhibits E2-induced proliferation of MCF-7 cells, reporter gene activity in cells transiently transfected with an E2-responsive plasmid (containing a frog vitellogenin A2 gene promoter insert) and down-regulates the nuclear estrogen receptor. Moreover, DIM (5 mg/kg every other day) also inhibits DMBA-induced mammary tumor growth in Sprague-Dawley rats and this was not accompanied by induction of hepatic CYP1A1-dependent activity. Thus, DIM represents a new class of relatively non-toxic AhR-based antiestrogens that inhibit E2-dependent tumor growth in rodents and current studies are focused on development of analogs for clinical treatment of breast cancer.

Carcinogenesis 1998 Sep;19(9):1631-9

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