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Planta Med. 2011 Jan;77(2):146-51. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1250178. Epub 2010 Aug 27.

Crocetin inhibits invasiveness of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells via downregulation of matrix metalloproteinases.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacy, Laboratory of Pharmacognosy & Chemistry of Natural Products, University of Patras, Rion, Greece.


Crocetin is a carotenoid dicarboxylic acid which, in nature, is esterified with glucose or gentiobiose units forming the crocins, abundant components of saffron (a spice with many reputed medicinal uses). We have previously reported that saffron, crocins and crocetin inhibit breast cancer cell proliferation. In order to further study the effect of crocetin on breast cancer cells, we used the highly invasive MDA-MB-231 cells and measured the viability with the WST-1 assay and the invasiveness through a reconstituted basement membrane. After 24 h incubation, crocetin significantly inhibited not only proliferation but also invasion at 1 and 10 µM. Cancer invasiveness and metastasis are associated with the expression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). In order to study the molecular changes of MMP expression that might accompany the observed crocetin effects, gene expression of MMPs was studied by RT-PCR, whereas protein expression and gelatinolytic activity were determined with Western blotting and zymography, respectively. The gene and protein expression of pro-MT1-MMP and pro-MT2-MMP were greatly attenuated by both crocetin and all- TRANS-retinoic acid (ATRA, used as control). Incubation with 10 µM crocetin for 24 h in serum-free conditions reduced pro-MMP-9 activity and pro-MMP-2/MMP-2 protein levels. When cultured in media with sera 2 and 5 %, crocetin at 10 μΜ also reduced gelatinase activity. The above findings show that crocetin, the main metabolite of crocins, inhibits MDA-MB-231 cell invasiveness via downregulation of MMP expression.

© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York.

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