In vitro estrogenic activities of fenugreek Trigonella foenum graecum seeds

Indian J Med Res. 2010 Jun:131:814-9.


Background & objectives: Trigonella foenum graecum commonly known as fenugreek, has been widely cultivated in Asia, Africa and Mediterranean countries for the edible and medicinal values of its seeds. Earlier reports show that fenugreek seeds provide a mastogenic effect resulting in enhanced breast size. However, very little is known about its estrogenic effect. The present study investigated the effect of chloroform extracts of fenugreek seeds (FCE) in breast cancer cells for its estrogenic effect, and to assess its capacity as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Methods: The effect of FCE on cell proliferation of estrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer cells, MCF-7 was studied by MTT assay at a concentration range of 20 to 320 microg/ml. The competitive ER binding assay (HAP assay) was done to find out the ER binding capacity of the extract. Transfection and reporter assay (DLR assay), and RT- PCR with an estrogen responsive gene pS2 were done to find out the transcriptional regulatory activity of FCE.

Results: FCE stimulated the proliferation of MCF-7 cells, showed binding to ER (IC(50) = 185.6 +/- 32.8 microg/ ml) and acted as an agonist for ER mediated transcription via ERE. It also induced the expression of estrogen responsive gene pS2 in MCF-7 cells.

Interpretation & conclusion: Our study provided the evidence for estrogenic activities of fenugreek seeds. Further in vitro and in vivo studies could demonstrate its suitability as an alternative to HRT.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Phytoestrogens / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Receptors, Estrogen / genetics
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Seeds / chemistry*
  • Trigonella / chemistry*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / drug effects*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Plant Extracts
  • Receptors, Estrogen