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Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2017 Feb;38(2):241-251. doi: 10.1038/aps.2016.122. Epub 2016 Nov 28.

Sulforaphane suppresses EMT and metastasis in human lung cancer through miR-616-5p-mediated GSK3β/β-catenin signaling pathways.

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Department of Respiratory Medicine, the First Hospital of Quanzhou Affiliated to Fujian Medical University, Quanzhou 362000, China.
Department of Oncology, Traditional Chinese Medicine-Integrated Hospital of Southern Medical University, Guangzhou 510310, China.
Department of Thoracic Surgery, Fuzhou Pulmonary Hospital, Fujian Medical University, Fuzhou 350008, China.
College of Basic Medicine, Fujian Medical University, Fuzhou 350108, China.
Department of Pharmacy, the First Hospital of Quanzhou Affiliated to Fujian Medical University, Quanzhou 362000, China.


Sulforaphane is a common antioxidant selectively abundant in cruciferous plants, which exhibits effective anti-cancer actions in control of tumorigenesis or progression of various cancers. A recent study has shown that sulforaphane attenuates the EGFR signaling pathway in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), suggesting its potential anti-metastatic effects. In this study we assessed the involvement of sulforaphane and miR-616-5p in epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and NSCLC metastasis. Sulforaphane suppressed the cell proliferation in human NSCLC cell lines H1299, 95C and 95D with IC50 values of 9.52±1.23, 9.04±1.90 and 17.35±2.03 μmol/L, respectively. At low concentrations (1-5 μmol/L), sulforaphane dose-dependently inhibited the migration and invasion of 95D and H1299 cells with relatively high metastatic potential. The anti-metastatic action of sulforaphane was confirmed in 95D and H1299 cell xenografts in vivo. In fresh NSCLC tissue samples from 179 patients, miR-616-5p levels were upregulated in late-stage NSCLCs, and strongly correlated with risk of NSCLC recurrence and metastasis. Consistent with the clinic observation, miR-616-5p levels in the 3 NSCLC cell lines were correlated with their metastatic ability, and were decreased by sulforaphane treatment. Silencing miR-616-5p markedly suppressed the migration and invasion of 95D cells in vitro and NSCLC metastasis in vivo. Further studies revealed that miR-616-5p directly targeted GSK3β and decreased its expression, whereas sulforaphane decreased miR-616-5p levels by histone modification, and followed by inactivation of the GSK3β/β-catenin signaling pathway and inhibition of EMT, which was characterized by loss of epithelial markers and acquisition of a mesenchymal phenotype in NSCLC cells. Our findings suggest that sulforaphane is a potential adjuvant chemotherapeutic agent for the prevention of NSCLC recurrence and metastasis, and miR-616-5p can be clinically utilized as a biomarker or therapeutic target to inhibit metastasis.

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