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Original Article

Korean J Physiol Pharmacol 2017; 21(2): 205-213

Published online March 1, 2017

Copyright © Korean J Physiol Pharmacol.

Quercetin induces apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in triple-negative breast cancer cells through modulation of Foxo3a activity

Lich Thi Nguyen#, Yeon-Hee Lee#, Ashish Ranjan Sharma, Jong-Bong Park, Supriya Jagga, Garima Sharma, Sang-Soo Lee*, and Ju-Suk Nam*

Institute for Skeletal Aging & Orthopedic Surgery, Hallym University-Chuncheon Sacred Heart Hospital, Chuncheon 24252, Korea

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Quercetin, a plant-derived flavonoid found in fruits, vegetables and tea, has been known to possess bioactive properties such as anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer. In this study, anti-cancer effect of quercetin and its underlying mechanisms in triple-negative breast cancer cells was investigated. MTT assay showed that quercetin reduced breast cancer cell viability in a time and dose dependent manner. For this, quercetin not only increased cell apoptosis but also inhibited cell cycle progression. Moreover, quercetin increased FasL mRNA expression and p51, p21 and GADD45 signaling activities. We also observed that quercetin induced protein level, transcriptional activity and nuclear translocation of Foxo3a. Knockdown of Foxo3a caused significant reduction in the effect of quercetin on cell apoptosis and cell cycle arrest. In addition, treatment of JNK inhibitor (SP 600125) abolished quercetin-stimulated Foxo3a activity, suggesting JNK as a possible upstream signaling in regulation of Foxo3a activity. Knockdown of Foxo3a and inhibition of JNK activity reduced the signaling activities of p53, p21 and GADD45, triggered by quercetin. Taken together, our study suggests that quercetin induces apoptosis and cell cycle arrest via modification of Foxo3a signaling in triple-negative breast cancer cells.

Keywords: Apoptosis, Cell cycle arrest, Foxo3a, Quercetin, Triple-negative breast cancer