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Phytomedicine. 2004 Jan;11(1):18-23.

Isolation of linoleic acid as an estrogenic compound from the fruits of Vitex agnus-castus L. (chaste-berry).

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Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy, UIC/NIH Center for Botanical Dietary Supplements Research, College of Pharmacy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60612, USA.


A methanol extract of chaste-tree berry (Vitex agnus-castus L.) was tested for its ability to displace radiolabeled estradiol from the binding site of estrogen receptors alpha (ERalpha) and beta (ERbeta). The extract at 46 +/- 3 microg/ml displaced 50% of estradiol from ERalpha and 64 +/- 4 microg/ml from ERbeta. Treatment of the ER+ hormone-dependent T47D:A18 breast cancer cell line with the extract induced up-regulation of ERbeta mRNA. Progesterone receptor (PR) mRNA was upregulated in the Ishikawa endometrial cancer cell line. However, chaste-tree berry extract did not induce estrogen-dependent alkaline phosphatase (AP) activity in Ishikawa cells. Bioassay-guided isolation, utilizing ER binding as a monitor, resulted in the isolation of linoleic acid as one possible estrogenic component of the extract. The use of pulsed ultrafiltration liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, which is an affinity-based screening technique, also identified linoleic acid as an ER ligand based on its selective affinity, molecular weight, and retention time. Linoleic acid also stimulated mRNA ERbeta expression in T47D:A18 cells, PR expression in Ishikawa cells, but not AP activity in Ishikawa cells. These data suggest that linoleic acid from the fruits of Vitex agnus-castus can bind to estrogen receptors and induce certain estrogen inducible genes.

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