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Cancer Lett. 2005 Dec 18;230(2):239-47.

Chemopreventive properties of the ethanol extract of chinese licorice (Glycyrrhiza uralensis) root: induction of apoptosis and G1 cell cycle arrest in MCF-7 human breast cancer cells.

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Department of Veterinary Public Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Seoul National University, San 56-1, Shillim-Dong, Kwanak-gu, Seoul 151-742, South Korea.


Much of the interest on the chemopreventive properties of licorice has been focused on the plant genius Glycyrrhiza glabra. In this study the ethanol extract of Chinese licorice root, Glycyrrhiza uralensis (G. uralensis) was investigated for its estrogenic effect and the ability to inhibit cell proliferation in the MCF-7 human breast cancer cell line. The extract of the root of G. uralensis was fractionated in EtOH:H(2)O (80:20) (80% ethanol). The extract exhibited estrogenic effects similar to 17beta- estradiol (E2) and induced apoptosis at the same dose level (100 microg/ml) in MCF-7 breast cancer cells, results were associated with up-regulation of tumor suppressor gene p53 and pro-apoptotic protein Bax. G. uralensis extract caused the up-regulation of p21(waf1/cip1) and down-regulation of cdk 2 and cyclin E and most significantly, induced G1 cell cycle arrest. This is the first study to show that the ethanolic extract of the root of G. uralensis has an estrogen-like activity and anti-cancer effects against MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. Whilst the use of phytoestrogens to protect against hormone-dependent cancers or as a 'natural' alternative to hormone replacement therapy remains controversial, the data in this paper support the suggestion that extracts of root of the Chinese licorice G. uralensis might be of importance in this debate.

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