Background: The ginsenoside Rg3, one of active components of red ginseng, has chemopreventive and anticancer potential. Cancer stem cells retain self-renewal properties which account for cancer recurrence and resistance to anticancer therapy. In our present study, we investigated whether the standardized Korean Red Ginseng extract (RGE) and Rg3 could modulate the manifestation of breast cancer stem cell-like features through regulation of self-renewal activity.
Methods: The effects of RGE and Rg3 on the proportion of CD44high/CD24low cells, as representative characteristics of stem-like breast cancer cells, were determined by flow cytometry. The mammosphere formation assay was performed to assess self-renewal capacities of breast cancer cells. Aldehyde dehydrogenase activity of MCF-7 mammospheres was measured by the ALDEFLUOR assay. The expression levels of Sox-2, Bmi-1, and P-Akt and the nuclear localization of hypoxia inducible factor-1α in MCF-7 mammospheres were verified by immunoblot analysis.
Results: Both RGE and Rg3 decreased the viability of breast cancer cells and significantly reduced the populations of CD44high/CD24low in MDA-MB-231 cells. RGE and Rg3 treatment attenuated the expression of Sox-2 and Bmi-1 by inhibiting the nuclear localization of hypoxia inducible factor-1α in MCF-7 mammospheres. Suppression of the manifestation of breast cancer stem cell-like properties by Rg3 was mediated through the blockade of Akt-mediated self-renewal signaling.
Conclusion: This study suggests that Rg3 has a therapeutic potential targeting breast cancer stem cells.
Keywords: Breast cancer stem cells; Ginseng; Ginsenoside Rg3; Red ginseng extract; Self-renewal.