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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Genistein inhibits proliferation of colon cancer cells by attenuating a negative effect of epidermal growth factor on tumor suppressor FOXO3 activity

Wentao Qi1, Christopher R Weber2*, Kaarin Wasland1 and Suzana D Savkovic1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology; NorthShore University Research Institute, Evanston, IL 60201, USA

2 Department of Pathology, The University of Chicago; Chicago, IL 60637, USA

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BMC Cancer 2011, 11:219  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-219

Published: 3 June 2011

Abstract

Background

Soy consumption is associated with a lower incidence of colon cancer which is believed to be mediated by one of its of components, genistein. Genistein may inhibit cancer progression by inducing apoptosis or inhibiting proliferation, but mechanisms are not well understood. Epidermal growth factor (EGF)-induced proliferation of colon cancer cells plays an important role in colon cancer progression and is mediated by loss of tumor suppressor FOXO3 activity. The aim of this study was to assess if genistein exerts anti-proliferative properties by attenuating the negative effect of EGF on FOXO3 activity.

Methods

The effect of genistein on proliferation stimulated by EGF-mediated loss of FOXO3 was examined in human colonic cancer HT-29 cells. EGF-induced FOXO3 phosphorylation and translocation were assessed in the presence of genistein. EGF-mediated loss of FOXO3 interactions with p53 (co-immunoprecipitation) and promoter of p27kip1 (ChIP assay) were examined in presence of genistein in cells with mutated p53 (HT-29) and wild type p53 (HCT116). Silencing of p53 determined activity of FOXO3 when it is bound to p53.

Results

Genistein inhibited EGF-induced proliferation, while favoring dephosphorylation and nuclear retention of FOXO3 (active state) in colon cancer cells. Upstream of FOXO3, genistein acts via the PI3K/Akt pathway to inhibit EGF-stimulated FOXO3 phosphorylation (i.e. favors active state). Downstream, EGF-induced disassociation of FOXO3 from mutated tumor suppressor p53, but not wild type p53, is inhibited by genistein favoring FOXO3-p53(mut) interactions with the promoter of the cell cycle inhibitor p27kip1 in colon cancer cells. Thus, the FOXO3-p53(mut) complex leads to elevated p27kip1 expression and promotes cell cycle arrest.

Conclusion

These novel anti-proliferative mechanisms of genistein suggest a possible role of combining genistein with other chemoreceptive agents for the treatment of colon cancer.

Keywords:
Genistein; EGF; FOXO3; proliferation; colon cancer