, 14:33 | Cite as

Effects of α-zearalenol on the metabolome of two breast cancer cell lines by 1H-NMR approach

  • Anna Chiara Nittoli
  • Susan Costantini
  • Angela Sorice
  • Francesca Capone
  • Roberto Ciarcia
  • Stefania Marzocco
  • Alfredo Budillon
  • Lorella Severino
Original Article



Zearalenone (ZEN) is one of the most widely distributed toxins that contaminates many crops and foods. Its major metabolites are α-Zearalenol (α-zol) and β-Zearalenol. Previous studies showed that ZEN and α-zol have estrogenic properties and are able to induce growth promoting effect in breast tissues.


Considering that tumorigenesis is dependent on the reprogramming of cellular metabolism and that the evaluation of the cellular metabolome is useful to understand the metabolic changes that can occur during the cancer development and progression or after treatments, aim of our work is to study, for the first time, the effects of α-zol on the metabolomic profile of an estrogen positive breast cancer cell line, MCF-7, and of an estrogen negative breast cancer cell lines MDA-MB231.


Firstly, we tested the effects of α-zol on the cell viability after 24, 48 and 72 h of treatments with 10−10, 10−8 and 10−6 M concentrations on breast cancer MCF-7 and MDA-MB231 cell lines in comparison to human non-cancerous breast MCF10A cell line. Then, we evaluated cell cycle progression, levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the metabolomic profiling by 1H-NMR approach on MCF-7 and MDA-MB231 before and after 72 h treatments. Principal component analysis was used to compare the obtained spectra.


α-zol is resulted able to induce: (i) an increase of the cell viability on MCF-7 cells mainly after 72 h treatment, (ii) a slight decrease of the cell viability on MDA-MB231 cells, and (iii) an increase of cells in S phase of the cell cycle and of ROS only in MCF-7 cells. Moreover, the evaluation of metabolomics profile evidenced that after treatment with α-zol the levels of some metabolites increased in MCF-7 cells whereas decreased slightly in MDA-MB231 cells.


Our results showed that α-zol was able to increase the protein biosynthesis as well as the lipid metabolism in MCF-7 cells, and, hence, to induce an estrogen positive breast cancer progression.


Metabolome Alpha-zol Breast cancer NMR 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Anna Chiara Nittoli, Susan Costantini, Angela Sorice, Francesca Capone, Roberto Ciarcia, Stefania Marzocco, Alfredo Budillon and Lorella Severino declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Anna Chiara Nittoli, Susan Costantini, Angela Sorice, Francesca Capone, Roberto Ciarcia, Stefania Marzocco, Alfredo Budillon and Lorella Severino have no ethical requirements to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna Chiara Nittoli
    • 1
  • Susan Costantini
    • 2
  • Angela Sorice
    • 2
  • Francesca Capone
    • 2
  • Roberto Ciarcia
    • 1
  • Stefania Marzocco
    • 3
  • Alfredo Budillon
    • 2
  • Lorella Severino
    • 1
  1. 1.Unità di Farmacologia e Tossicologia - Dipatimento di Medicina Veterinaria e Produzioni AnimaliUniversità degli Studi di Napoli “Federico II”NaplesItaly
  2. 2.Unità di Farmacologia Sperimentale - Istituto Nazionale Tumori “Fondazione G. Pascale”IRCCSNaplesItaly
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Farmacia, Campus di FiscianoUniversità degli Studi di SalernoSalernoItaly

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