Cell signaling and regulators of cell cycle as molecular targets for prostate cancer prevention by dietary agents

Biochem Pharmacol. 2000 Oct 15;60(8):1051-9. doi: 10.1016/s0006-2952(00)00385-3.


Prostate cancer (PCA) is the most common invasive malignancy and leading cause (after lung) of cancer deaths in males. Since PCA is initially androgen-dependent, strategies are targeted toward androgen depletion for its control. However, tumor re-growth mostly occurs following this modality, and is androgen-independent. A loss of functional androgen receptor and an enhanced expression of growth factor receptors (e.g. erbB family members) and associated ligands have been shown to be the causal genetic events in PCA progression. These genetic alterations lead to an epigenetic mechanism where a feed-back autocrine loop between membrane receptor (e.g. epidermal growth factor receptor [erbB1] and associated ligand (e.g. transforming growth factor-alpha) results in an enhanced activation of extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) as an essential component of the uncontrolled growth of PCA at an advanced and androgen-independent stage. Together, we rationalized that inhibiting these epigenetic events would be useful in controlling advanced PCA growth. Dietary polyphenolic flavonoids and isoflavones are being studied extensively as cancer-preventive and interventive agents. Therefore, we focused our attention on silymarin, genistein, and epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG), present in milk thistle, soy beans, and green tea, respectively. The effect of these agents was assessed on the erbB1-Shc-ERK1/2 signal transduction pathway, cell cycle regulatory molecules, and cell growth and death. In androgen-independent human prostate carcinoma DU145 cells, silymarin, genistein, and EGCG resulted in a significant to complete inhibition of transforming growth factor-alpha-caused activation of membrane receptor erbB1 followed by inhibition of downstream cytoplasmic signaling target Shc activation and a decrease in its binding with erbB1, without an alteration in their protein expression. Silymarin and genistein also inhibited ERK1/2 activation, suggesting that these agents impair the activation of erbB1-Shc-ERK1/2 signaling in DU145 cells. In the case of EGCG, a further increase in ERK1/2 activation was observed that was related to its pro-oxidant and apoptotic activities. Silymarin, genistein, and EGCG also resulted in a significant induction of Cip1/p21 and Kip1/p27 and a decrease in cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) 4, but a moderate inhibition of CDK2, cyclin D1, and cyclin E was observed. An enhanced level of Cip1/p21 and Kip1/27 also led to an increase in their binding to CDK4 and CDK2. Treatment of cells with silymarin, genistein, and EGCG also resulted in strong cell growth inhibition at lower doses, and complete inhibition at higher doses. In contrast to silymarin, higher doses of genistein also showed cell death. A more profound cytotoxic effect was observed in the case of EGCG, with strong cell death at lower doses and complete loss of viability at higher doses. Together, these results suggest that cell signaling and regulators of cell cycle are potential epigenetic molecular targets for prostate cancer prevention by dietary agents. More studies, therefore, are needed with these agents to explore their anticarcinogenic potential against human prostate cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Catechin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Catechin / therapeutic use
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / drug effects
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism*
  • Diet*
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Genistein / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Silymarin / therapeutic use


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Silymarin
  • Catechin
  • epigallocatechin gallate
  • Genistein
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases