The Journal of nutritional biochemistry

Effect of phytosterols on cholesterol metabolism and MAP kinase in MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cells.

PMID 12667603


Epidemiological studies suggest that dietary phytosterols may offer protection form some types of cancer including breast cancer. In an attempt to investigate the mechanism by which phytosterols offer this protection, we investigated the effect of the two most common dietary phytosterols, beta-sitosterol and campesterol, on the mevalonate and MAP Kinase (MAPK) pathways in MDA-MB-231 cells. These pathways play a role in cell growth and apoptosis. MDA-MB-231 cell line was used in this study since it is a hormone-insensitive tumor cell line which represents the majority of advanced breast cancer cases. Cells grown in the presence of 16 microM beta-sitosterol or campesterol for 3 days exhibited a 70% and 6% reduction in cell growth, respectively, while cholesterol treatment had no effect on growth as compared to the control. Studies investigating the effect of sterol supplementation on the relative and total sterol composition of cells, showed that cells supplemented with cholesterol contained 23% more cholesterol than the control. Cells supplemented with campesterol had almost one-half the cholesterol of controls but accumulated campesterol to account for 40% of the total sterols. In the case of cells supplemented with beta-sitosterol, cells had only 25% of their sterols as cholesterol and the rest was in the form of beta-sitosterol. All sterols tested equally inhibited de novo cholesterol synthesis using 14C-acetate as substrate. beta-Sitosterol supplemented cells had reduced cholesterol synthesis when using 3H-mevalonolactone as substrate, which suggests that the inhibition in this pathway is downstream of mevalonate where processes such as isoprenylation of proteins may take place. Mevalonate supplementation to cells treated with beta-sitosterol did not completely correct the observed growth inhibition by beta-sitosterol. There was no effect of sterols on the concentrations of both low (21-26 kDa) or high (44-74 kDa) molecular weight isoprenylated proteins in these cells. On the other hand, both the quantity and activity of MAPK was elevated in the cells supplemented with beta-sitosterol. These data suggest that the down regulation of cholesterol synthesis from mevalonate and stimulation of the MAPK pathway may play roles in the inhibition of MDA-MB-231 cell growth by beta-sitosterol.

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