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01.12.2017 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies 1/2017

Ethanol extract of propolis and its constituent caffeic acid phenethyl ester inhibit breast cancer cells proliferation in inflammatory microenvironment by inhibiting TLR4 signal pathway and inducing apoptosis and autophagy

BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies > Ausgabe 1/2017
Huasong Chang, Yuehua Wang, Xusheng Yin, Xinying Liu, Hongzhuan Xuan



Propolis and its major constituent – caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE) have good abilities on antitumor and anti-inflammation. However, little is known about the actions of propolis and CAPE on tumor in inflammatory microenvironment, and inflammatory responses play decisive roles at different stages of tumor development. To understand the effects and mechanisms of ethanol-extracted Chinese propolis (EECP) and its major constituent - CAPE in inflammation-stimulated tumor, we investigated their effects on Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) signaling pathway which plays a crucial role in breast cancer MDA-MB-231 cell line.


80% confluent breast cancer MDA-MB-231 cells were stimulated with 1 μg/mL lipopolysaccaride (LPS). Then the cells were divided for treatment by CAPE (25 μg/mL) and EECP (25, 50 and 100 μg/mL), respectively. Cell viability, nitric oxide (NO) production and cell migration were measured by sulforhodamine B assay, chemical method and scratch assay. The levels of TLR4, MyD88, IRAK4, TRIF, caspase 3, PARP, LC3B and p62 were investigated through western blotting. The expression of TLR4, LC3B and nuclear factor-κB p65 (NF-κB p65) were tested by immunofluorescence microscopy assay.


Treatment of different concentrations of EECP (25, 50 and 100 μg/mL) and CAPE (25 μg/mL) significantly inhibited LPS-stimulated MDA-MB-231 cell line proliferation, migration and NO production. Furthermore, EECP and CAPE activated caspase3 and PARP to induce cell apoptosis, and also upregulated LC3-II and decreased p62 level to induce autophagy during the process. TLR4 signaling pathway molecules such as TLR4, MyD88, IRAK4, TRIF and NF-κB p65 were all down-regulated after EECP and CAPE treatment in LPS-stimulated MDA-MB-231 cells.


These findings indicated that EECP and its major constituent - CAPE inhibited breast cancer MDA-MB-231 cells proliferation in inflammatory microenvironment through activating apoptosis, autophagy and inhibiting TLR4 signaling pathway. EECP and CAPE may hold promising prospects in treating inflammation-induced tumor.
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