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Icariin exerts anti-tumor activity by inducing autophagy via AMPK/mTOR/ULK1 pathway in triple-negative breast cancer.

Icariin exerts anti-tumor activity by inducing autophagy via AMPK/mTOR/ULK1 pathway in triple-negative breast cancer.

PMID: 

Cancer Cell Int. 2024 Feb 14 ;24(1):74. Epub 2024 Feb 14. PMID: 38355608

Abstract Title: 

Icariin exerts anti-tumor activity by inducing autophagy via AMPK/mTOR/ULK1 pathway in triple-negative breast cancer.

Abstract: 

BACKGROUND: Breast cancer is the most prevalent female tumor, of which triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) accounts for about 15%. Characterized by its aggressive nature and limited treatment options, TNBC currently stands as a significant clinical challenge. This study aimed to investigate the effects of icariin (ICA) on TNBC and explore the underlying molecular mechanism.METHODS: Cell viability was assessed using CCK-8 assay, whereas the impact of ICA on cell proliferation was determined using colony formation assay and detection of proliferating cell nuclear antigen protein. Wound healing and transwell assays were used to evaluate the effects of ICA on cell migration and invasion, respectively. Flow cytometry was used to analyze cell cycle distribution and apoptosis. Transmission electron microscopy and monodansylcaverine staining were performed to detect the induction of autophagy, whereas molecular docking was conducted to predict the potential targets associated with autophagy. The in vivo anti-tumor effects of ICA were evaluated using a TNBC 4T1 xenograft mouse model. Protein expression levels were examined using immunoblotting and immunohistochemistry.RESULTS: In vitro, ICA effectively suppressed the viability, proliferation, migration, and invasion of TNBC cells and induced G0/G1 phase cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, and autophagy in TNBC cells by regulating the adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK)/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)/Unc-51-like kinase 1 (ULK1) signaling pathway. The knockdown of AMPK and inhibition of autophagy with 3-methyladenine reversed the effects of ICA, highlighting the importance of AMPK and autophagy in the anti-cancer mechanism of ICA. In vivo, ICA significantly inhibited TNBC growth, promoted autophagy, and regulated AMPK/mTOR/ULK1 pathway.CONCLUSIONS: Our findings demonstrated that ICA exerts anti-cancer effects against TNBC and the associated molecular mechanisms. This study will help to facilitate further preclinical and clinical investigations for the treatment of TNBC.

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