Activation and potentiation of interferon-gamma signaling by 3,3'-diindolylmethane in MCF-7 breast cancer cells

Mol Pharmacol. 2006 Feb;69(2):430-9. doi: 10.1124/mol.105.017053. Epub 2005 Nov 2.


3,3'-Diindolylmethane (DIM), a natural autolytic product in plants of the Brassica genus, including broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, exhibits promising cancer protective activities, especially against mammary neoplasia in animal models. We observed previously that DIM induced a G(1) cell-cycle arrest and strong induction of cell-cycle inhibitor p21 expression and promoter activity in both estrogen-responsive and -independent breast cancer cell lines. We showed recently that DIM up-regulates the expression of interferon gamma (IFNgamma) in human MCF-7 breast cancer cells. This novel effect may contribute to the anticancer effects of DIM because IFNgamma plays an important role in preventing the development of primary and transplanted tumors. In this study, we observed that DIM activated the IFNgamma signaling pathway in human breast cancer cells. DIM activated the expression of the IFNgamma receptor (IFNGR1) and IFNgamma-responsive genes p56- and p69-oligoadenylate synthase (OAS). In cotreatments with IFNgamma, DIM produced an additive activation of endogenous p69-OAS and of an OAS-Luc reporter and a synergistic activation of a GAS-Luc reporter. DIM synergistically augmented the IFNgamma induced phosphorylation of signal transducer and activator of transcription factor 1, further evidence of DIM activation of the IFNgamma pathway. DIM and IFNgamma produced an additive inhibition of cell proliferation and a synergistic increase in levels of major histocompatibility complex class-1 (MHC-1) expression, accompanied by increased levels of mRNAs of MHC-1-associated proteins and transporters. These results reveal novel immune activating and potentiating activities of DIM in human tumor cells that may contribute to the established effectiveness of this dietary indole against various tumors types.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 2',5'-Oligoadenylate Synthetase / genetics
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Indoles / pharmacology*
  • Interferon gamma Receptor
  • Interferon-gamma / genetics
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Interferon-gamma / pharmacology
  • Phosphorylation
  • Receptors, Interferon / genetics
  • Receptors, Interferon / metabolism*
  • STAT1 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Indoles
  • Receptors, Interferon
  • STAT1 Transcription Factor
  • STAT1 protein, human
  • Interferon-gamma
  • p56 oligoadenylate synthetase
  • 2',5'-Oligoadenylate Synthetase
  • 3,3'-diindolylmethane