Urtica dioica extract suppresses miR-21 and metastasis-related genes in breast cancer

Biomed Pharmacother. 2017 Sep;93:95-102. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2017.06.021.


Background: Breast cancer has a high prevalence among women worldwide. Tumor invasion and metastasis still remains an open issue that causes most of the therapeutic failures and remains the prime cause of patient mortality. Hence, there is an unmet need to develop the most effective therapeutic approach with the lowest side effects and highest cytotoxicity that will effectively arrest or eradicate metastasis.

Methods: An MTT assay and scratch test were used to assess the cytotoxicity and migration effects of Urtica dioica on the breast cancer cells. The QRT-PCR was used to study the expression levels of miR-21, MMP1, MMP9, MMP13, CXCR4, vimentin, and E-cadherin.

Results: The results of gene expression in tumoral groups confirmed the overexpression of miR-21, MMP1, MMP9, MMP13, vimentin, and CXCR4, and the lower expression of E-cadherin compared to control groups (P<0.05). Moreover, the results of the MTT assay show that Urtica dioica significantly inhibited breast cancer cell proliferation. Moreover, findings from the scratch assay exhibited the inhibitory effects of Urtica dioica on the migration of breast cancer cell lines.

Conclusion: Urtica dioica extract could inhibit cancer cell migration by regulating miR-21, MMP1, MMP9, MMP13, vimentin, CXCR4, and E-Cadherin. Moreover, our findings demonstrated that the extract could decrease miR-21 expression, which substantially lessens the overexpressed MMP1, MMP9, MMP13, vimentin, and CXCR4 and increases E-cadherin in the tumoral group.

Keywords: Breast cancer; MicroRNA-21; Migration; Urtica dioica.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Movement / genetics
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / genetics
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Humans
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / genetics
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Urtica dioica / chemistry*


  • MIRN21 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Plant Extracts