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Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2013 Feb;138(1):69-79. doi: 10.1007/s10549-013-2440-2. Epub 2013 Feb 15.

Critical role for reactive oxygen species in apoptosis induction and cell migration inhibition by diallyl trisulfide, a cancer chemopreventive component of garlic.

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Department of Pharmacology & Chemical Biology, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 2.32A Hillman Cancer Center Research Pavilion, 5117 Centre Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Diallyl trisulfide (DATS) is a structurally simple but biologically active constituent of processed garlic with in vivo activity against chemically induced as well as oncogene-driven cancer in experimental rodents. This study offers novel insights into the mechanisms underlying anticancer effects of DATS using human breast cancer cells as a model. Exposure of human breast cancer cells (MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231) and a cell line derived from spontaneously developing mammary tumor of a transgenic mouse (BRI-JM04) to DATS resulted in a dose-dependent inhibition of cell viability that was accompanied by apoptosis induction. A non-tumorigenic normal human mammary cell line (MCF-10A) was resistant to growth inhibition and apoptosis induction by DATS. The DATS-induced apoptosis in MDA-MB-231, MCF-7, and BRI-JM04 cells was associated with reactive oxygen species (ROS) production as evidenced by fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry using a chemical probe (MitoSOX Red). Overexpression of Cu,Zn-superoxide dismutase (Cu,Zn-SOD) as well as Mn-SOD conferred significant protection against DATS-induced ROS production and apoptotic cell death in MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 cells. Activation of Bak, but not Bax, resulting from DATS treatment was markedly suppressed by overexpression of Mn-SOD. The DATS treatment caused ROS generation, but not activation of Bax or Bak, in MCF-10A cells. Furthermore, the DATS-mediated inhibition of cell migration was partially but significantly attenuated by Cu,Zn-SOD and Mn-SOD overexpression in association with changes in levels of proteins involved in epithelial-mesenchymal transition. The DATS-mediated induction of heme oxygenase-1 was partially attenuated by overexpression of Mn-SOD. These results provide novel mechanistic insights indicating a critical role for ROS in anticancer effects of DATS.

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