Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Pharmacology and Toxicology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Glibenclamide inhibits cell growth by inducing G0/G1 arrest in the human breast cancer cell line MDA-MB-231

Mariel Núñez1, Vanina Medina1, Graciela Cricco1, Máximo Croci2, Claudia Cocca1, Elena Rivera1, Rosa Bergoc13* and Gabriela Martín1

Author Affiliations

1 Radioisotopes Laboratory, School of Pharmacy and Biochemistry, University of Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina

2 Institute of Immunooncology Dr. EJV Crescenti, Buenos Aires, Argentina

3 Institute of Health Sciences Barceló, Buenos Aires, Argentina

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Pharmacology and Toxicology 2013, 14:6  doi:10.1186/2050-6511-14-6

Published: 11 January 2013



Glibenclamide (Gli) binds to the sulphonylurea receptor (SUR) that is a regulatory subunit of ATP-sensitive potassium channels (KATP channels). Binding of Gli to SUR produces the closure of KATP channels and the inhibition of their activity. This drug is widely used for treatment of type 2-diabetes and it has been signaled as antiproliferative in several tumor cell lines. In previous experiments we demonstrated the antitumoral effect of Gli in mammary tumors induced in rats. The aim of the present work was to investigate the effect of Gli on MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell proliferation and to examine the possible pathways involved in this action.


The mRNA expression of the different subunits that compose the KATP channels was evaluated in MDA-MB-231 cells by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. Results showed the expression of mRNA for both pore-forming isoforms Kir6.1 and Kir6.2 and for the regulatory isoform SUR2B in this cell line. Gli inhibited cell proliferation assessed by a clonogenic method in a dose dependent manner, with an increment in the population doubling time. The KATP channel opener minoxidil increased clonogenic proliferation, effect that was counteracted by Gli. When cell cycle analysis was performed by flow cytometry, Gli induced a significant cell-cycle arrest in G0/G1 phase, together with an up-regulation of p27 levels and a diminution in cyclin E expression, both evaluated by immunoblot. However, neither differentiation evaluated by neutral lipid accumulation nor apoptosis assessed by different methodologies were detected. The cytostatic, non toxic effect on cell proliferation was confirmed by removal of the drug.

Combination treatment of Gli with tamoxifen or doxorubicin showed an increment in the antiproliferative effect only for doxorubicin.


Our data clearly demonstrated a cytostatic effect of Gli in MDA-MB-231 cells that may be mediated through KATP channels, associated to the inhibition of the G1-S phase progression. In addition, an interesting observation about the effect of the combination of Gli with doxorubicin leads to future research for a potential novel role for Gli as an adjuvant in breast cancer treatment

Glibenclamide; Potassium channels; MDA-MB-231; Cytostatic effect