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Environ Health Prev Med. 2012 May;17(3):246-51. doi: 10.1007/s12199-011-0239-5. Epub 2011 Sep 10.

Epigallocatechin gallate inhibits sphere formation of neuroblastoma BE(2)-C cells.

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Department of Epidemiology, Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine, 7-5-1 Kusunoki-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Japan.



A growing number of epidemiological studies have demonstrated that the consumption of green tea inhibits the growth of a variety of cancers. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), the most abundant catechin in green tea, has been shown to have an anti-cancer effect against many cancers. Most cancers are believed to be initiated from and maintained by a small population of tumor-initiating cells (TICs) that are responsible for chemotherapeutic resistance and tumor relapse. In neuroblastoma, an aggressive pediatric tumor that often relapses and has a poor prognosis, TICs were recently identified as spheres grown in a serum-free non-adherent culture used for neural crest stem cell growth. Although EGCG has been reported to induce growth arrest and apoptosis in neuroblastoma cells, its effect on neuroblastoma TICs remains to be defined.


Gene expression was analyzed by real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). The effects of EGCG on cell proliferation, apoptosis, and sphere formation were determined by cell counting, propidium iodide staining, and sphere (>100 μm in diameter) counting, respectively.


Neuroblastoma BE(2)-C cells showed increased expression of stem cell markers (nanog homeobox [NANOG] and octamer-binding transcription factor 4 [OCT4]), as well as decreased expression of neuronal differentiation markers (Cu(2+)-transporting ATPase alpha polypeptide [ATP7A] and dickkopf homolog 2 [DKK2]) in spheres grown in serum-free non-adherent culture, compared to parental cells grown in conventional culture. Although EGCG induced growth arrest and apoptosis in the parental cells in a dose-dependent manner, it was not effective against spheres. However, EGCG potently inhibited sphere formation in the BE(2)-C cells.


The present results suggest that EGCG may inhibit the development of TICs in BE(2)-C cells.

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