Anti-tumor properties of methoxylated analogues of resveratrol in malignant MCF-7 but not in non-tumorigenic MCF-10A mammary epithelial cell lines

Annick D. van den Brand*, Judith Villevoye, Sandra M. Nijmeijer, Martin van den Berg, Majorie B.M. van Duursen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Resveratrol is a plant-derived polyphenol that is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-tumorigenic properties in in vitro and in vivo models. Recent studies show that some resveratrol analogues might be more potent anti-tumor agents, which may partly be attributed to their ability to activate the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR). Here, the anti-tumorigenic properties of resveratrol and structural analogues oxyresveratrol, pinostilbene, pterostilbene and tetramethoxystilbene (TMS) were studied in vitro, using in the malignant human MCF-7 breast cancer cell line and non-tumorigenic breast epithelial cell line MCF-10A. Cell viability and migration assays showed that methoxylated analogues of resveratrol are more potent anti-tumorigenic compounds than resveratrol and its hydroxylated analogue oxyresveratrol, with 2,3’,4,5’-tetramethoxy-trans-stilbene (TMS) being the most potent compound. TMS decreased MCF-7 tumor cell viability with 50% at 3.6 μM and inhibited migration with 37.5 ± 14.8% at 3 μM. In addition, TMS activated the AHR more potently (EC50 in a reporter gene assay 2.0 μM) and induced AHR-mediated induction of cytochrome P450 1A1 (CYP1A1) activity (EC50 value of 0.7 μM) more than resveratrol and the other analogues tested. Cell cycle analysis showed that TMS induced a shift in cell cycle status from the G1 to the G2/M phase causing a cell cycle arrest in the MCF-7 cells, while no effect of TMS was observed in the non-tumorigenic MCF-10A mammary epithelial cell line. Gene expression analysis showed that 3 μM TMS increased gene expression of CYP1A1 (289-fold), CYP1B1 (5-fold) and Nqo1 (2-fold), and decreased gene expression of IL-8 (3-fold) in MCF-7 cells. In MCF-10A cells, 10 μM TMS also increased gene expression of CYP1A1 (5-fold) and CYP1B1 (2-fold), but decreased gene expression of Nqo1 (1.4-fold) in contrast to MCF-7 cells. TMS displays more potent anti-tumorigenic properties and activates the AHR more effectively than resveratrol. In addition, this is the first study to show that TMS, but not resveratrol, selectively inhibits the cell cycle of breast tumor cells and not the non-tumorigenic cells. Our study provides more insight in the anti-tumor properties of the methoxylated analogues of resveratrol in breast cells in vitro.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-43
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast cancer
  • Cell cycle
  • Gene expression
  • Resveratrol


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