Chronic psychological stress is a well-established risk factor for breast cancer development. Si-Ni-San (SNS) is a classical traditional Chinese medicine formula prescribed to psychological disorder patients. However, its action effects, molecular mechanisms, and bioactive phytochemicals against breast cancer are not yet clear.
This study aimed to explore the modulatory mechanism and bioactive compound of SNS in regulating estrogen metabolism during breast cancer development induced by chronic psychological stress.
Mouse breast cancer xenograft was used to determine the effect of SNS on breast cancer growth and metastasis. Metabolomics analysis was conducted to discover the impact of SNS on metabolic profile changes in vivo. Multiple molecular biology experiments and breast cancer xenografts were applied to verify the anti-metastatic potentials of the screened bioactive compound.
SNS remarkably inhibited chronic psychological stress-induced breast cancer growth and metastasis in the mouse breast cancer xenograft. Meanwhile, chronic psychological stress increased the level of cholic acid, accompanied by the elevation of estradiol. Mechanistic investigation demonstrated that cholic acid activated farnesoid X receptor (FXR) expression, which inhibited hepatocyte nuclear factor 4α (HNF4α)-mediated estrogen sulfotransferase (EST) transcription in hepatocytes, and finally resulting in estradiol elevation. Notably, SNS inhibited breast cancer growth by suppressing estradiol level via modulating FXR/EST signaling. Furthermore, luciferase-reporting gene assay screened naringenin as the most bioactive compound in SNS for triggering EST activity in hepatocytes. Interestingly, pharmacokinetic study revealed that naringenin had the highest absorption in the liver tissue. Following in vivo and in vitro studies demonstrated that naringenin inhibited stress-induced breast cancer growth and metastasis by promoting estradiol metabolism via FXR/EST signaling.
This study not only highlights FXR/EST signaling as a crucial target in mediating stress-induced breast cancer development, but also provides naringenin as a potential candidate for breast cancer endocrine therapy via promoting estradiol metabolism.