Daidzein, R-(+)equol and S-(-)equol inhibit the invasion of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells potentially via the down-regulation of matrix metalloproteinase-2

Eur J Nutr. 2014 Feb;53(1):345-50. doi: 10.1007/s00394-013-0520-z. Epub 2013 Apr 9.


Purpose: Soy isoflavones may inhibit tumor cell invasion and metastasis via their effects on matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and their tissue inhibitors (TIMPs). The current study investigates the effects of daidzein, R- and S-equol on the invasion of MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cells and the effects of these compounds on MMP/TIMP expression at the mRNA level.

Methods: The anti-invasive effects of daidzein, R- and S-equol (0, 2.5, 10, 50 μM) on MDA-MB-231 cells were determined using the Matrigel invasion assay following 48-h exposure. Effects on MMP-2, MMP-9, TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 expression were assessed using real-time PCR. Chiral HPLC analysis was used to determine intracellular concentrations of R- and S-equol.

Results: The invasive capacity of MDA-MB-231 cells was significantly reduced (by approximately 50-60 %) following treatment with 50 μM daidzein, R- or S-equol. Anti-invasive effects were also observed with R-equol at 2.5 and 10 μM though overall equipotent effects were induced by all compounds. Inhibition of invasion induced by all three compounds at 50 μM was associated with the down-regulation of MMP-2, while none of the compounds tested significantly affected the expression levels of MMP-9, TIMP-1 or TIMP-2 at this concentration. Following exposure to media containing 50 μM R- or S-equol for 48-h intracellular concentrations of R- and S-equol were 4.38 ± 1.17 and 3.22 ± 0.47 nM, respectively.

Conclusion: Daidzein, R- and S-equol inhibit the invasion of MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cells in part via the down-regulation of MMP-2 expression, with equipotent effects observed for the parent isoflavone daidzein and the equol enantiomers.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Down-Regulation*
  • Equol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones / pharmacology*
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2 / genetics
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2 / metabolism*
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 / genetics
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Soybeans / chemistry*
  • Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinase-1 / genetics
  • Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinase-1 / metabolism
  • Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinase-2 / genetics
  • Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinase-2 / metabolism


  • Isoflavones
  • RNA, Messenger
  • TIMP1 protein, human
  • TIMP2 protein, human
  • Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinase-1
  • Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinase-2
  • Equol
  • daidzein
  • MMP2 protein, human
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2
  • MMP9 protein, human
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9