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Metabolic Profiling Reveals Sphingosine-1-Phosphate Kinase 2 and Lyase as Key Targets of (Phyto-) Estrogen Action in the Breast Cancer Cell Line MCF-7 and Not in MCF-12A

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047833
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Plant Biochemistry
  • Secondary Metabolism
  • Molecular Cell Biology
  • Plant Science
  • Medicine
  • Drugs And Devices
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Drug Metabolism
  • Obstetrics And Gynecology
  • Breast Cancer
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Risk Factors
  • Hormonal Causes Of Cancer
  • Lifestyle Causes Of Cancer
  • Nutritional Correlates Of Cancer
  • Cancer Prevention
  • Urology
  • Prostate Diseases
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Biology
  • Medicine


To search for new targets of anticancer therapies using phytoestrogens we performed comparative metabolic profiling of the breast cancer cell line MCF-7 and the non-tumorigenic breast cell line MCF-12A. Application of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) revealed significant differences in the metabolic levels after exposure with 17ß-estradiol, genistein or a composition of phytoestrogens within a native root flax extract. We observed the metabolites 3-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-lactic acid, cis-aconitic acid, 11-beta-hydroxy-progesterone, chenodeoxycholic acid and triacontanoic acid with elevated levels due to estrogen action. Particularly highlighted were metabolites of the sphingolipid metabolism. Sphingosine and its dihydro derivate as well as ethanolaminephosphate were significantly altered after exposure with 1 nM 17ß-estradiol in the cell line MCF-7, while MCF-12A was not affected. Treatment with genistein and the flax extract normalized the sphingosine concentrations to the basic levels found in MCF-12A cells. We could further demonstrate that the expression levels of the sphingosine metabolizing enzymes: sphingosine-1-phosphate kinase (Sphk) and lyase (S1P lyase) were significantly influenced by estrogens as well as phytoestrogens. The isoform Sphk2 was overexpressed in the tumorigenic cell line MCF-7, while S1P lyase was predominantly expressed in the non-tumorigenic cell line MCF-12A. Importantly, in MCF-7 the weak S1P lyase expression could be significantly increased after exposure with 10 µM genistein and 1 µg/ml root flax extract. Here, we present, for the first time, an analysis of metabolic response of phytoestrogens to breast cancer cell lines. The contrasting regulation of sphingolipid enzymes in MCF-7 and MCF-12A render them as preferred targets for future anticancer strategies.

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