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J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2003 Mar;84(4):463-8.

A ginsenoside-Rh1, a component of ginseng saponin, activates estrogen receptor in human breast carcinoma MCF-7 cells.

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  • 1Department of Bioscience and Biotechnology, College of Engineering, Institute of Biotechnology, Sejong University, Seoul, South Korea.


We have examined the possibility that a component of Panax ginseng, ginsenoside-Rh1, acts by binding to steroid hormone receptors such as receptors for estrogen, glucocorticoid, androgen, and retinoic acid. Ginsenoside-Rh1 activated the transcription of the estrogen-responsive luciferase reporter gene in MCF-7 breast cancer cells at a concentration of 50 microM. Activation was inhibited by the specific estrogen receptor antagonist ICI 182,780, indicating that the estrogenic effect of ginsenoside-Rh1 is estrogen receptor dependent. Ginsenoside-Rh1 induction of luciferase activity was dose-dependent in CV-1 cells transiently transfected with estrogen receptor and reporter plasmids. Next, we evaluated the ability of ginsenoside-Rh1 to induce the estrogen-responsive genes in MCF-7 cells. Ginsenoside-Rh1 increased c-fos and pS2 at the mRNA levels at 24h after treatment, although the effects were not as prominent as 17beta-estradiol. Western blot analysis showed that progesterone receptor protein was induced at 24h of treatment of ginsenoside-Rh1. However, ginsenoside-Rh1 failed to activate the glucocorticoid receptor, the androgen receptor, or the retinoic acid receptor in CV-1 cells transiently transfected with the corresponding steroid hormone receptors and hormone responsive reporter plasmids. These data support our hypothesis that ginsenoside-Rh1 acts as a weak phytoestrogen, presumably by binding and activating the estrogen receptor.

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