Evidence for a biphasic apoptotic pathway induced by melatonin in MCF-7 breast cancer cells

Published on Thursday, 18 December 2014


Previous investigations demonstrated that melatonin exerts an oncostatic action on estrogen-responsive breast cancer, both in vitro and in vivo. Nevertheless, the pro-apoptotic effect of melatonin is still a matter of debate.

An experimental study was undertaken to focus on melatonin-related apoptosis and to identify the apoptotic pathways involved. Whole cell-count, flow-cytometry analysis and proteins involved in apoptotic pathways [p53, p73, murine double minute 2 (MDM2), caspases-9,-7,-6, cleaved-poly ADP ribose polymerase (PARP), Bcl-2, Bax and apoptotic inducing factor (AIF)] were investigated in human MCF-7 breast cancer cells treated with physiological (1 nM) concentration of melatonin.

Melatonin exerts a significant growth-inhibitory effect on MCF-7 cells, becoming evident after 72 hr and thereafter increasing linearly up to 144 hr. In this model, the growth-inhibition is transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGFbeta1)-dependent and it might be reversed by adding an anti-TGFbeta1 antibody.

Melatonin induces a significant rise in apoptotic rate, at both 24 and 96 hr. The anti-TGFbeta1 antibody almost completely suppresses melatonin-related late apoptosis; however, early apoptosis is unaffected. Early programmed cell death is associated with a significant increase in the p53/MDM2 ratio and in AIF release, without modifications in caspase activity or cleaved-PARP levels. Activated caspases-9 and -7 and cleaved-PARP increased significantly at 96 hr, concomitantly with a down-regulation of the Bcl-2/Bax ratio.

These data suggest that two distinct apoptotic processes are triggered by melatonin in MCF-7 cells: an early, TGFbeta1 and caspase-independent response, and a late apoptotic TGFbeta1-dependent process in which activated-caspase-7 is likely to be the terminal effector.



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See also:

- About Melatonin;

- The Di Bella Method (A Fixed Part - Melatonin tablets);

- Evaluation of the safety and efficacy of the first-line treatment with somatostatin combined with melatonisn, retinoids, vitamin D3, and low doses of cyclophosphamide in 20 cases of breast cancer: a preliminary report;

- The Di Bella Method (DBM) improved survival, objective response and performance status in a retrospective observational clinical study on 122 cases of breast cancer;

- Complete objective response to biological therapy of plurifocal breast carcinoma.