The (-)-enantiomer of gossypol possesses higher anticancer potency than racemic gossypol in human breast cancer

Anticancer Res. Jan-Feb 2002;22(1A):33-8.


Natural gossypol (GP), a polyphenolic pigment in cottonseed, is a racemic mixture of two enantiomers, (+)GP and (-)GP. Our aim was to compare the abilities of (+/-)GP, (+)GP and (-)GP to reduce proliferation of breast cancerous epithelial cells (cEC) and cancerous stromal cells (cSC). Proliferation was measured by 3H-thymidine uptake. Results showed that (+)GP had no effect on both cEC and cSC. In contrast, in both cell types, (+/-)GP and (-)GP significantly inhibited proliferation. (+/-)GP caused reductions of 15, 46 and 82% at 25, 5.0 and 7.5 microM, respectively, in cEC, and reductions of 17, 28, 39 and 56% at 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0 microM, respectively, in cSC. (-)GP induced reductions of 33, 89 and 98% at 2.5, 5.0 and 7.5 microM, respectively, in cEC, and reductions of 29, 51, 64 and 72% at 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0 microM, respectively, in cSC. By RT-PCR, we found that 3 microM of (+/-)GP and (-)GP decreased cyclin D1 mRNA expression in both cell types (52% and 71%, respectively, in cEC; and 47% and 71%, respectively, in cSC), and increased transforming growth factor beta (TGFbeta) mRNA expression in both cell types (93% and 130%, respectively, in cEC; and 45% and 89%, respectively, in cSC). Interestingly, (-)GP was significantly more potent than (+/-)GP. These results show that (-)GP is the major inhibitory component of (+/-)GP, (-)GP is the more potent inhibitor of cancerous breast cell growth, and the inhibitory activity of (-)GP and (+/-)GP is related to the reduction of the cell cycle regulator, cyclin D1, and the induction of the cell proliferation inhibitor, TGFbeta.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cyclin D1 / biosynthesis
  • Cyclin D1 / genetics
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Gossypol / pharmacology*
  • Growth Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Stromal Cells / drug effects
  • Stromal Cells / pathology
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / biosynthesis
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / genetics
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Growth Inhibitors
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Cyclin D1
  • Gossypol