Isoliquiritigenin Inhibits Ovarian Cancer Metastasis by Reversing Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition

Molecules. 2019 Oct 16;24(20):3725. doi: 10.3390/molecules24203725.


The epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) plays a prominent role in cancer metastasis. Isoliquiritigenin (ISL), one of the flavonoids in licorice, has been shown to exhibit anticancer activities in many cancer types through various mechanisms. However, it is unknown whether ISL impacts the EMT process. Here, we show that ISL is able to suppress mesenchymal features of ovarian cancer SKOV3 and OVCAR5 cells, evidenced by an apparent morphological change from a mesenchymal to an epithelial phenotype and reduced levels of mesenchymal markers accompanied by the gain of E-cadherin expression. The suppression of EMT is also supported by the observed decrease in cell migration and in vitro invasion upon ISL treatment. Moreover, we show that ISL effectively blocks the intraperitoneal xenograft development of the SKOV3 cell line and prolonged the survival of tumor-bearing mice. These data suggest that ISL inhibits intraperitoneal ovary tumor development through the suppression of EMT, indicating that ISL may be an effective therapeutic agent against ovarian cancer.

Keywords: epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition; isoliquiritigenin; metastasis; ovarian cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chalcones / chemistry
  • Chalcones / pharmacology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Mice
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / mortality
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Chalcones
  • isoliquiritigenin