Sulforaphane suppresses EMT and metastasis in human lung cancer through miR-616-5p-mediated GSK3β/β-catenin signaling pathways

Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2017 Feb;38(2):241-251. doi: 10.1038/aps.2016.122. Epub 2016 Nov 28.


Sulforaphane is a common antioxidant selectively abundant in cruciferous plants, which exhibits effective anti-cancer actions in control of tumorigenesis or progression of various cancers. A recent study has shown that sulforaphane attenuates the EGFR signaling pathway in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), suggesting its potential anti-metastatic effects. In this study we assessed the involvement of sulforaphane and miR-616-5p in epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and NSCLC metastasis. Sulforaphane suppressed the cell proliferation in human NSCLC cell lines H1299, 95C and 95D with IC50 values of 9.52±1.23, 9.04±1.90 and 17.35±2.03 μmol/L, respectively. At low concentrations (1-5 μmol/L), sulforaphane dose-dependently inhibited the migration and invasion of 95D and H1299 cells with relatively high metastatic potential. The anti-metastatic action of sulforaphane was confirmed in 95D and H1299 cell xenografts in vivo. In fresh NSCLC tissue samples from 179 patients, miR-616-5p levels were upregulated in late-stage NSCLCs, and strongly correlated with risk of NSCLC recurrence and metastasis. Consistent with the clinic observation, miR-616-5p levels in the 3 NSCLC cell lines were correlated with their metastatic ability, and were decreased by sulforaphane treatment. Silencing miR-616-5p markedly suppressed the migration and invasion of 95D cells in vitro and NSCLC metastasis in vivo. Further studies revealed that miR-616-5p directly targeted GSK3β and decreased its expression, whereas sulforaphane decreased miR-616-5p levels by histone modification, and followed by inactivation of the GSK3β/β-catenin signaling pathway and inhibition of EMT, which was characterized by loss of epithelial markers and acquisition of a mesenchymal phenotype in NSCLC cells. Our findings suggest that sulforaphane is a potential adjuvant chemotherapeutic agent for the prevention of NSCLC recurrence and metastasis, and miR-616-5p can be clinically utilized as a biomarker or therapeutic target to inhibit metastasis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / drug effects*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Isothiocyanates / pharmacology
  • Isothiocyanates / therapeutic use*
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Mice
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / drug therapy
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • Sulfoxides
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays
  • beta Catenin / metabolism*


  • Isothiocyanates
  • MIRN616 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Sulfoxides
  • beta Catenin
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta
  • sulforaphane