A comparison of the effect of curcumin treatment on apoptosis, necrosis and autophagy in a MCF-7 mammary adenocarcinoma and a MCF-12A healthy mammary epithelial cell line

Van den Heever, Martine (2009-03)

Thesis (MSc (Physiological Sciences))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


Breast cancer is currently the primary cause of cancer-related death in women worldwide. Conventional treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy have many deleterious and long lasting side-effects, some of which are permanent, such as infertility. As certain tumour cells can also acquire resistance to chemotherapy, the need for the development of a less severe, yet more effective, targeted anti-cancer treatment exists. Curcumin, a plant polyphenol from Curcuma longa, has long been thought to possess antitumour, antioxidant, anti-arthritic, anti-amyloid, anti-ischemic and anti-inflammatory properties. Numerous studies conducted over the past sixty years confirm this. We aimed at examining the effect of curcumin on cell viability and the different modes of cell death, namely apoptosis, necrosis and autophagy, in the MCF-12A (non-tumorigenic mammary epithelial) and MCF-7 (mammary adenocarcinoma) cell lines. Cells were incubated with different doses of curcumin to evaluate the dose response through a MTT assay. Thereafter, cells were incubated with 200 μM curcumin for 48 hrs and stained with markers and DNA stains for apoptosis (Hoechst, Caspase-3, PARP), necrosis (Propidium Iodide) and autophagy (LC3B and Beclin-1). Cells were examined via fluorescence microscopy, Western Blot- and FACS analyses. MTT results showed no significant decrease in viability in the MCF-12A cell line after curcumin treatment. However, a significant decrease in viability was observed in MCF-7 cells after treatment with 200 μM curcumin (p < 0.05). Treated MCF-7 cells also show clear LC3B expression. FACS results show a significant difference in Hoechst mean fluorescence intensity in MCF-7 cells after curcumin treatment (p < 0.05). This study provides evidence that MCF-7 cells respond to a 200 μM dose of curcumin treatment through metabolic change and induction of the autophagic pathway. The model system used in this study provides groundwork for further cell culture based studies regarding breast cancer and curcumin.

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