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Melatonin Differentially Modulates NF-кB Expression in Breast and Liver Cancer Cells

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Background: NF-kB (nuclear factor kappa B) is a transcription factor composed of two subunits, p50 and p65, which plays a key role in the inflammatory process. Melatonin has oncostatic, antiangiogenic and antimetastatic properties, and some recent studies have indicated an inhibitory effect of melatonin on NF-kB in some types of cancer. This work aims to investigate the effects of melatonin treatment on the expression of NFkB in breast and liver cancer models.

Method: The breast cancer xenographic model was performed using female Balb/c nude athymic mice injected with MDA-MB-231 cells. The animals were treated with 40 mg/Kg of melatonin for 21 days. Volume of the tumors was measured with a digital caliper. Hepatocarcinoma model was developed by using the HepG2 cells in vitro, treated with 1 mM melatonin for 24 h. The expression of NF-kB protein was verified by immunohistochemistry and immunocytochemistry and quantified by optical densitometry, in vivo study and in vitro study, respectively. NF-kB gene expression was performed by quantitative RT-PCR.

Results: The breast cancer xenografts nude mice treated with melatonin showed reduced tumor size (P=0.0022). There was a decrease in NF-kB protein staining (P=0.0027) and gene expression (P=0.0185) in mice treated with melatonin. The opposite results were observed for the hepatocarcinoma model. HepG2 cells treated with melatonin showed an increase in the NF-kB immunostaining when compared to control cells (P=0.0042).

Conclusion: Our results indicated that the treatment with melatonin was able to decrease both gene and protein expressions of NF-kB in breast cancer cells and, conversely, increase the transcription factor protein expression in hepatocarcinoma cells. These data highlighted a double role in the expression of NF-kB, depending on the cell type. Further studies are needed to better elucidate the action of melatonin in NF-kB, since this transcription factor acts on different signaling pathways that are fundamental for carcinogenesis.
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Keywords: HepG2 cells; NF-kB; breast cancer; hepatocellular carcinoma; liver cancer; melatonin

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 September 2018

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