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Carcinogenesis. 2001 Nov;22(11):1809-17.

Cytostatic effects of 3,3'-diindolylmethane in human endometrial cancer cells result from an estrogen receptor-mediated increase in transforming growth factor-alpha expression.

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Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology, University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


3,3'-Diindolylmethane (DIM), a major in vivo product of indole-3-carbinol (I3C), is a promising anticancer agent derived from vegetables of the Brassica genus including broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. We report here that DIM has a potent cytostatic effect in cultured human Ishikawa endometrial cancer cells. A combination of northern blot and quantitative PCR analyses revealed that DIM induced the level of TGF-alpha transcripts by approximately 4-fold within 24 h of indole treatment. DIM also induced a 4-fold increase in the activity of the estrogen response marker, alkaline phosphatase (AP). Co-treatment of cells with the estrogen receptor (ER) antagonist ICI, or with the inhibitor of PKA-mediated activation of the ER, H89, ablated the DIM induction of both TGF-alpha expression and AP activity. Furthermore, DIM increased the maximum stimulatory effect of estrogen on TGF-alpha expression. Co-treatment with the protein synthesis inhibitor, cycloheximide, abolished the inductive effects of DIM, indicating differences in the mechanistic requirements of DIM and estrogen. DIM treatment also stimulated levels of secreted TGF-alpha protein by >10-fold. The ectopic addition of TGF-alpha inhibited the growth of Ishikawa cells, whereas incubation with a TGF-alpha antibody partially reversed the growth inhibitory effects of DIM. Taken together, these results extend our previous findings of the ligand independent estrogen receptor agonist activity of DIM, and uncover an essential role for the stimulation in TGF-alpha expression and the TGF-alpha activated signal transduction pathway in the potent cytostatic effects of DIM in endometrial cancer cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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