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Phytomedicine. 2005 Nov;12(10):735-41.

Estrogenic effects of two derivatives of icariin on human breast cancer MCF-7 cells.

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, College of pharmaceutical sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, PR China.


The aims of the present study were to determine the estrogenic activities of icariin (ICA) and its derivatives and their structure-estrogenic activity relationship. Therefore, icaritin (ICT) and desmethylicaritin (DICT) were derived from ICA. The estrogenic activities of ICA, ICT and DICT were examined by cell proliferation and progestogen receptor mRNA expression of estrogen-receptor-positive MCF-7 cells. Current studies exhibited that ICT and DICT both markedly enhanced the proliferation of MCF-7 cells; as compared to estradiol (100%), their relative proliferative effects (RPE) were 90% and 94%, respectively. Cell proliferation induced by ICT and DICT was completely antagonized by ICI182,780. ICT and DICT increased progestogen receptor (PR) at mRNA levels at 48 h after treatment, although the effects were not as prominent as 17beta-estradiol (E2). Those phenomena were not observed with ICA. Results demonstrate that ICT and DICT (nonconjugated forms) possess estrogen-like activity; however, ICA appears to have no estrogenicity in the MCF-7 cell line model in vitro.

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