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Biochem Pharmacol. 2002 Mar 15;63(6):1085-97.

Bcl-2 family-mediated apoptotic effects of 3,3'-diindolylmethane (DIM) in human breast cancer cells.

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Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology, University of California, Berkeley 94720-3200, USA.


3,3'-Diindolylmethane (DIM) is a major in vivo derivative of the putative anticancer agent indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which is present in vegetables of the Brassica genus. At concentrations above 10 microM, DIM inhibited DNA synthesis and cell proliferation in both estrogen receptor replete (MCF-7) and deficient (MDA-MB-231) human breast cancer cells in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. These antiproliferative effects were accompanied by characteristic indications of programmed cell death in both cell lines, including externalization of phosphatidylserine, chromatin condensation, and DNA fragmentation. Furthermore, Western and Northern blot analyses, as well as coimmunoprecipitation assays, revealed that in both MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells, DIM treatment decreased total transcript and protein levels of the apoptosis inhibitory protein Bcl-2, and the amount of Bcl-2 bound to the pro-apoptotic protein Bax. DIM treatment also caused an increase in Bax protein levels, but did not affect the level of Bax that was bound to Bcl-2. As a functional test of the role of Bcl-2 down-regulation in the DIM-induced apoptotic response, ectopic expression of Bcl-2 in MCF-7 cells was shown to attenuate the apoptotic effect of DIM. These results demonstrate that DIM can induce apoptosis in breast cancer cells independent of estrogen receptor status by a process that is mediated by the modulated expression of the Bax/Bcl-2 family of apoptotic regulatory factors.

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