Maternal Epigenetic Regulation Contributes to Prevention of Estrogen Receptor-negative Mammary Cancer with Broccoli Sprout Consumption

Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2020 May;13(5):449-462. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-19-0491. Epub 2020 Mar 17.


Cruciferous vegetables have been of special interest due to the rich presence of bioactive compounds such as sulforaphane which show promising potential on cancer prevention and therapy as an epigenetic dietary strategy. Abnormal epigenetic alteration as one of the primary contributors to tumor development is closely related to breast cancer initiation and progression. In the present study, we investigated the effect of dietary broccoli sprouts (BSp), a common cruciferous vegetable, on prevention of estrogen receptor (ER)-negative mammary tumors at three different temporal exposure windows using a spontaneous breast cancer mouse model. Our findings indicate that maternal BSp treatment exhibited profound inhibitory and preventive effects on mammary cancer formation in the nontreated mouse offspring. The BSp diet administered to adult mice also showed suppressive effects on mammary cancer but was not as profound as the maternal BSp preventive effects. Moreover, such protective effects were linked with differentially expressed tumor- and epigenetic-related genes, as well as altered global histone acetylation, DNA methylation, and DNA hydroxymethylation levels. We also found that the expression changes of tumor-related genes were associated with the levels of histone methylation of H3K4 and H3K9 in the gene promoter regions. In addition, BSp-enriched sulforaphane was shown to increase protein expression of tumor suppressor genes such as p16 and p53 and inhibit the protein levels of Bmi1, DNA methyltransferases, and histone deacetylases in ERα-negative breast cancer cell lines. Collectively, these results suggest that maternal exposure to key phytochemicals may contribute to ER-negative mammary tumor prevention in their offspring through epigenetic regulations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Brassica / chemistry*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Proliferation
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Phytochemicals / pharmacology*
  • Prognosis
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Phytochemicals
  • Receptors, Estrogen