The Journal of steroid biochemistry and molecular biology

Structural determinants of plant lignans for growth of mammary tumors and hormonal responses in vivo.

PMID 15860264


Low risk of breast cancer (BC) has been proposed to be associated with high intake of lignans. Some plant lignans are converted to mammalian lignans, e.g., enterolactone (ENL), suggested to be the biologically active lignan forms. Until now, little attention has been paid to the possible biological activities of plant lignans, even though some plant lignans are absorbed and present in serum and urine. In this study, we have investigated the antitumorigenic and endocrine-modulatory activities of different plant lignans in order to clarify the structure-activity relationships. 7-Hydroxymatairesinol (HMR) is [corrected] converted to ENL, and both HMR and ENL inhibit the growth of 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]-anthracene (DMBA)-induced mammary cancer. Nortrachelogenin (NTG) resembles HMR, but has a hydroxyl group at C-8 instead of C-7 and is not converted to ENL. In DMBA-model, NTG showed no inhibition of tumor growth, but increased the uterine weight. Furthermore, life-long exposure to NTG increased uterine weight in immature females and ventral prostate weight in adult males. In contrast, life-long exposure to HMR had no effects on uterine or prostate weights at any age. Our results indicate that a difference in the position of one hydroxyl group results in distinct biological responses in vivo, as well as different lignan metabolite profiles.