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Stem Cell Res Ther. 2014 Oct 14;5(5):116. doi: 10.1186/scrt506.

Curcumin inhibits breast cancer stem cell migration by amplifying the E-cadherin/β-catenin negative feedback loop.



The existence of cancer stem cells (CSCs) has been associated with tumor initiation, therapy resistance, tumor relapse, angiogenesis, and metastasis. Curcumin, a plant ployphenol, has several anti-tumor effects and has been shown to target CSCs. Here, we aimed at evaluating (i) the mechanisms underlying the aggravated migration potential of breast CSCs (bCSCs) and (ii) the effects of curcumin in modulating the same.


The migratory behavior of MCF-7 bCSCs was assessed by using cell adhesion, spreading, transwell migration, and three-dimensional invasion assays. Stem cell characteristics were studied by using flow cytometry. The effects of curcumin on bCSCs were deciphered by cell viability assay, Western blotting, confocal microscopy, and small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated gene silencing. Evaluations of samples of patients with breast cancer were performed by using immunohistochemistry and flow cytometry.


Here, we report that bCSCs are endowed with aggravated migration property due to the inherent suppression of the tumor suppressor, E-cadherin, which is restored by curcumin. A search for the underlying mechanism revealed that, in bCSCs, higher nuclear translocation of beta-catenin (i) decreases E-cadherin/beta-catenin complex formation and membrane retention of beta-catenin, (ii) upregulates the expression of its epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT)-promoting target genes (including Slug), and thereby (iii) downregulates E-cadherin transcription to subsequently promote EMT and migration of these bCSCs. In contrast, curcumin inhibits beta-catenin nuclear translocation, thus impeding trans-activation of Slug. As a consequence, E-cadherin expression is restored, thereby increasing E-cadherin/beta-catenin complex formation and cytosolic retention of more beta-catenin to finally suppress EMT and migration of bCSCs.


Cumulatively, our findings disclose that curcumin inhibits bCSC migration by amplifying E-cadherin/beta-catenin negative feedback loop.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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