Background: Cellular response to chemotherapeutic drugs in the absence of BRCA1 either completely or partially had drawn less attention. The present study evaluated whether there is a differential inhibition of cell growth by selected compounds with respect to BRCA1 status in estrogen receptor (ER)-positive ovarian cancer cells. Materials and methods: The BG1 ovarian cancer cells used in the experiments were antisensely blocked with BRCA1 gene. Growth inhibition and apoptotic induction were analyzed to evaluate the cytotoxic effects. Small interfering RNA (SiRNA) transfection, western blot analysis, RT-PCR analysis and molecular modeling were carried out to analyze the estrogen-dependent action of plumbagin. Results: Although we found that all the compounds studied induce apoptosis, the induction was in the order of plumbagin > doxorubicin > tamoxifen > cisplatin. Plumbagin can bind to the active site of ER-α. Plumbagin, however, induced ER-α 46 kDa truncated isoform, which was found abundantly preempted in the cytoplasm compared with a 66-kDa full-length isoform. The truncated isoform is known to inhibit classical ER-α signaling pathways. SiRNA-transfected cells for ER-α exhibited lower cytotoxicity upon plumbagin treatment than the control-transfected cells. Conclusion: Taken together, this study indicates that plumbagin has chemotherapeutic potential in BRCA1-mutated/defective ER-positive cancers.
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