Flavonoids, bioactive components of propolis, exhibit cytotoxic activity and induce cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in human breast cancer cells MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 – a comparative study

Agata Kabała-Dzik, Anna Rzepecka-Stojko, Robert Kubina, Marcello Iriti, Robert D Wojtyczka, Ewa Buszman, Jerzy Stojko


Breast cancer is one of the most common causes of mortality in women. Flavonoids, among other compounds, are bioactive constituents of propolis. In this comparative study, we investigated the effects of flavonoids apigenin (API), genistein (GEN), hesperidin (HES), naringin (NAR) and quercetin (QUE) on the proliferation, apoptosis, and cell cycle of two different human cancer cells - MDA-MB-231, estrogen-negative, and MCF-7, estrogen-positive receptor breast carcinoma cells. Many cytotoxic reports of flavonoids were performed by MTT assay. However, it’s reported that MTT is reduced in metabolically active cells and yields an insoluble purple formazan, which indicates that obtained cytotoxic results of flavonoids could be inconsistent. Cell viability was measured by NR, neutral red assay, while the percentage of apoptotic cells and cell cycle arrest were determined by flow cytometry and Muse cell cycle assay, respectively. The results showed a high dose-dependent effect in cell viability tests. IC50 values were as follows (MCF-7/MDA-MB-231, for 48 h, in µM): 9.39/50.83 for HES, 25.19/88.17 for API, 40.26/333.51 for NAR, 49.49/47.50 for GEN and 95.12/130.10 for QUE. Flavonoid-induced apoptosis was dose- and time-dependent, for both cancer cell lines, though flavonoids were more active on MCF-7 cells. The flavonoids also induced cell cycle arrest in cancer cells.


Flavonoids; Propolis; Breast cancer.

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