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      Quercetin induces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in CD133 + cancer stem cells of human colorectal HT29 cancer cell line and enhances anticancer effects of doxorubicin

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          The colorectal cancer stem cells (CSCs) with the CD133 + phenotype are a rare fraction of cancer cells with the ability of self-renewal, unlimited proliferation and resistance to treatment. Quercetin has anticancer effects with the advantage of exhibiting low side effects. Therefore, we evaluated the anticancer effects of quercetin and doxorubicin (Dox) in HT29 cancer cells and its isolated CD133 + CSCs.

          Materials and Methods:

          The CSCs from HT29 cells were isolated using CD133 antibody conjugated to magnetic beads by MACS. Anticancer effects of quercetin and Dox alone and in combination on HT29 cells and CSCs were evaluated using MTT cytotoxicity assay and flow cytometry analysis of cell cycle distribution and apoptosis induction.


          The CD133 + CSCs comprised about 10% of HT29 cells. Quercetin and Dox alone and in combination inhibited cell proliferation and induced apoptosis in HT29 cells and to a lesser extent in CSCs. Quercetin enhanced cytotoxicity and apoptosis induction of Dox at low concentration in both cell populations. Quercetin and Dox and their combination induced G2/M arrest in the HT29 cells and to a lesser extent in CSCs.


          The CSCs were a minor population with a significantly high level of drug resistance within the HT29 cancer cells. Quercetin alone exhibited significant cytotoxic effects on HT29 cells and also increased cytoxicity of Dox in combination therapy. Altogether, our data showed that adding quercetin to Dox chemotherapy is an effective strategy for treatment of both CSCs and bulk tumor cells.

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          Most cited references 28

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          Chemotherapy resistance of glioblastoma stem cells.

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            Cancer stem cells in solid tumors.

            Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are cells that drive tumorigenesis, as well as giving rise to a large population of differentiated progeny that make up the bulk of the tumor, but that lack tumorigenic potential. CSCs have been identified in a variety of human tumors, as assayed by their ability to initiate tumor growth in immunocompromised mice. Further characterization studies have demonstrated that gene expression profiles in breast cancer correlate with patient prognosis, and brain CSCs are specifically resistant to radiation through DNA damage repair. In addition, specific signaling pathways play a functional role in CSC self renewal and/or differentiation, and early studies indicate that CSCs are associated with a microenvironmental niche. Thus the biological properties of CSCs are just beginning to be revealed, and the continuation of these studies should lead to the development of CSC-targeted therapies for cancer treatment.
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              Multitargeted cancer prevention by quercetin.

              Quercetin is an anti-oxidative flavonoid widely distributed in the plant kingdom. Phenolic hydroxyl groups at the B-ring and the 3-position are responsible for its free radical-scavenging activity. Quercetin is commonly present as a glycoside and is converted to glucuronide/sulfate conjugates during intestinal absorption and only conjugated metabolites are therefore found in circulating blood. Although metabolic conversion attenuates its biological effects, active aglycone may be generated from the glucuronide conjugates by enhanced beta-glucuronidase activity during inflammation. With respect to its relationship with molecular targets relevant to cancer prevention, quercetin aglycone has been shown to interact with some receptors, particularly an aryl hydrocarbon receptor, which is involved in the development of cancers induced by certain chemicals. Quercetin aglycone has also been shown to modulate several signal transduction pathways involving MEK/ERK and Nrf2/keap1, which are associated with the processes of inflammation and carcinogenesis. Rodent studies have demonstrated that dietary administration of this flavonol prevents chemically induced carcinogenesis, especially in the colon, whilst epidemiological studies have indicated that an intake of quercetin may be associated with the prevention of lung cancer. Dietary quercetin is, therefore, a promising agent for cancer prevention and further research is warranted.

                Author and article information

                Iran J Basic Med Sci
                Iran J Basic Med Sci
                Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences
                Mashhad University of Medical Sciences (Iran )
                July 2015
                : 18
                : 7
                : 635-643
                [1 ]Molecular Research Lab, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
                [2 ]Cellular and Molecular Research Center, Qom University of Medical Sciences, Qom, Iran
                [3 ]Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Faculty of Pharmacy, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
                Author notes
                [* ] Corresponding author: Ebrahim Azizi. Molecular Research Lab, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran. Tel/Fax: +98-21-66959100; email: aziziebr@
                Copyright: © Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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