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Chem Biol Interact. 1998 Nov 27;116(3):213-28.

The effect of the flavonoids, quercetin, myricetin and epicatechin on the growth and enzyme activities of MCF7 human breast cancer cells.

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  • 1Bioengineering Unit, University of Strathclyde, Wolfson Centre, Glasgow, Scotland, UK.


Humans ingest about 1 g of flavonoids daily in their diet, and they are increasingly being associated with cytoprotective antitumour properties. The mechanism(s) responsible for these effects have not yet been elucidated but may involve interaction with xenobiotic metabolising enzymes to alter the metabolic activation of potential carcinogens. We have investigated the effect of the flavonoids, quercetin (Q), myricetin (M) and epicatechin (E) on the growth, morphology and enzyme activities of MCF7 human breast cancer cells. Of the three flavonoids studied only Q caused a decrease in cell protein content and decreased the reduction of MTT (3-[4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl]-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium). It also inhibited protein, DNA and RNA synthesis to the greatest extent. Q and M increased intracellular reduced glutathione (GSH) content, and Q altered the morphology of the cells after 24 h exposure to 25 microM. E and Q inhibited the O-deethylation of ethoxyresorufin (EROD) catalysed by cytochrome P450 CYPIA. In contrast, M increased the EROD reaction 2-fold. Q increased the activity of DT-diaphorase, NADPH cytochrome c reductase and glutathione reductase, while E increased only NADPH cytochrome c reductase activity. The effects on enzyme activities in vitro suggest that there is not only the potential for flavonoids to alter metabolic activation of carcinogens but also of therapeutically administered drugs in vivo. We are at present investigating the synergy between anti-cancer drugs and flavonoids in terms of anti-tumour efficacy.

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