Taraxacum mongolicum extract induced endoplasmic reticulum stress associated-apoptosis in triple-negative breast cancer cells

J Ethnopharmacol. 2017 Jul 12;206:55-64. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2017.04.025. Epub 2017 Apr 28.


Background: Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive and deadly breast cancer subtype with limited treatment options. It is necessary to seek complementary strategies for TNBC management. Taraxacum mongolicum, commonly named as dandelion, is a herb medicine with anti-cancer activity and has been utilized to treat mammary abscess, hyperplasia of mammary glands from ancient time in China, but the scientific evidence and action mechanisms still need to be studied.

Aim of the study: This study was intended to investigate the therapeutic effect and molecular mechanisms of dandelion extract in TNBC cell line.

Methodology: Dandelion extract was prepared and purified, and then its chemical composition was determined. Cell viability was evaluated by MTT assay. Analysis of cell apoptosis and cell cycle was assessed by flow cytometry. The expression levels of mRNA and proteins were determined by real-time PCR and Western blotting, respectively. Caspase inhibitor Z-VAD-FMK and CHOP siRNA were used to confirm the cell apoptosis induced by dandelion extract.

Results: Dandelion extract significantly decreased MDA-MB-231cell viability, triggered G2/M phase arrest and cell apoptosis. Concurrently, it caused a markedly increase of cleaved caspase-3 and PARP proteins. Caspase inhibitor Z-VAD-FMK abolished the apoptosis triggered by dandelion extract. The three ER stress-related signals were strongly induced after dandelion treatment, including increased mRNA expressions of ATF4, ATF6, XBP1s, GRP78 and CHOP genes, elevated protein levels of phosphorylated PERK, eIF-2α, IRE1, as well as the downstream molecules of CHOP and GRP78. MDA-MB-231 cells transfected with CHOP siRNA significantly reduced apoptosis induced by dandelion extract. The underlying mechanisms at least partially ascribe to the strong activation of PERK/p-eIF2α/ATF4/CHOP axis.

Conclusion: ER stress related cell apoptosis accounted for the anti-cancer effect of dandelion extract, and these findings support dandelion extract might be a potential therapeutic approach to treat TNBC.

Keywords: Apoptosis; CHOP; Dandelion extract; Endoplasmic reticulum stress; Triple negative breast cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Chaperone BiP
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / drug effects*
  • Female
  • G2 Phase / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Taraxacum / chemistry*
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / pathology*


  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Chaperone BiP
  • HSPA5 protein, human
  • Plant Extracts