Nutrition and Health Sciences, Department of




Date of this Version



Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2018, 19, 966


© 2018 by the authors

Open access



St. John’s Wort (SJW) has been used as an estrogen agonist in the systems affected by menopause. Also, hypericin, a bioactive compound of SJW, has been used as a photosensitizer in photodynamic therapy. In the present study, we investigate the anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects of SJWto demonstrate the chemo-preventive effect in human breast cancer cells. MCF-7 cellswere culturedwith DMSO or various concentrations of SJWethanol extract (SJWE). Cell viability, proliferation, apoptosis, the expression of proteins involved in cell growth and apoptosis, and caspase-3/7 activity were examined. SJWE dose-dependently suppressed cell growth and induced apoptosis ofMCF-7 cells. Mechanistically, SJWE enhanced the phosphorylation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and decreased the expression of p-mammalian target of rapamycin (p-mTOR) and p-eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E (eIF4E)-binding protein 1 (4E-BP1). Also, SJWE inhibited the phosphorylation of protein kinase B (Akt) and showed increases in the expression of pro-apoptotic proteins Bax and Bad with decreases in the expression of anti-apoptotic proteins including B-cell lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2), B-cell lymphoma-extra large (Bcl-xL), and p-Bcl-2-associated death promoter (p-Bad). SJWE at 50 µg/mL showed markedly enhanced caspase-7 activation. Taken together, our results provide evidence that SJWE shows anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects via inhibition of AMPK/mTOR and activation of a mitochondrial pathway. Therefore, SJWE can be used as a chemo-preventive agent without photo-activation.