Indole-3-carbinol and diindolylmethane as aryl hydrocarbon (Ah) receptor agonists and antagonists in T47D human breast cancer cells

Biochem Pharmacol. 1996 Apr 26;51(8):1069-76. doi: 10.1016/0006-2952(96)00060-3.


Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is a major component of Brassica vegetables, and diindolylmethane (DIM) is the major acid-catalyzed condensation product derived from I3C. Both compounds competitively bind to the aryl hydrocarbon (Ah) receptor with relatively low affinity. In Ah-responsive T47D human breast cancer cells, I3C and DIM did not induce significantly CYP1A1-dependent ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase (EROD) activity or CYP1A1 mRNA levels at concentrations as high as 125 or 31 microM, respectively. A 1 nM concentration of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) induced EROD activity in these cells, and cotreatment with TCDD plus different concentrations of I3C (1-125 microM) or DIM (1-31 microM) resulted in a > 90% decrease in the induced response at the highest concentration of I3C or DIM. I3C or DIM also partially inhibited (< 50%) induction of CYP1A1 mRNA levels by TCDD and reporter gene activity, using an Ah-responsive plasmid construct in transient transfection assays. In T47D cells cotreated with 5 nM [3H]TCDD alone or in combination with 250 microM I3C or 31 microM DIM, there was a 37 and 73% decrease, respectively, in formation of the nuclear Ah receptor. The more effective inhibition of induced EROD activity by I3C and DIM was due to in vitro inhibition of enzyme activity. Thus, both I3C and DIM are partial Ah receptor antagonists in the T47D human breast cancer cell line.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP1A1 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP1A1 / biosynthesis*
  • Enzyme Induction
  • Humans
  • Indoles / pharmacology*
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / pharmacology
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / agonists
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / drug effects
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / metabolism


  • Indoles
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon
  • indole-3-carbinol
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP1A1