Ph.D. Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The stemness and metastasis of cancer cells are crucial features in determining cancer progression. Argonaute-2 (AGO2) overexpression was reported to be associated with microRNA (miRNA) biogenesis, supporting the self-renewal and differentiation characteristics of cancer stem cells (CSCs). Ursolic acid (UA), a triterpene compound, has multiple biological functions, including anticancer activity. In this study, we find that UA inhibits the proliferation of MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 breast cancer cell lines using the CCK-8 assay. UA induced a significant decrease in the fraction of CSC in which it was examined by changes in the expression of stemness biomarkers, including the Nanog and Oct4 genes. UA altered invasion and migration capacities by significant decreases in the levels of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) proteins of slug and vimentin. Furthermore, the co-reduction in oncogenic miRNA levels (miR-9 and miR-221) was a result of the down-modulation in AGO2 in breast cancer cells in vitro. Mechanically, UA increases PTEN expression to inactivate the FAK/PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway and the decreased level of c-Myc in quantitative RT-PCR and Western blot imaging analyses. Our current understanding of the anticancer potential of UA in interrupting between EMT programming and the state of CSC suggests that UA can contribute to improvements in the clinical practice of breast cancer.