Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway mediates the oestrogen-like activities of ginsenoside Rg1 in human breast cancer (MCF-7) cells

Wai Sum Lau, Wen Fang Chen, Robbie Yat Kan Chan, De An Guo, Man Sau Wong

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Background and purpose: The present study was designed to determine how ginsenoside Rg1, an active ingredient in ginseng root, exerts its oestrogenic effects. We hypothesize that Rg1 may exert oestrogen-like actions in MCF-7 cells by activating the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway in a ligand-independent manner. Experimental approach: MCF-7 cells were co-incubated with the MAPK inhibitor PD98059 to determine whether the stimulant effects of Rg1 on cell proliferation, the induction of IGF-IR and pS2, the functional transactivation of oestrogen receptor-α (ERα), as well as ERα phosphorylation are dependent on MAPK. The time-dependent responses of mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK) and extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK) to Rg1 in MCF-7 cells were studied. The responses of MEK phosphorylation to Rg1 in oestrogen receptor (ER)-negative HEK293 cells were also determined. The effects of Rg1 on cell proliferation and IGF-IR protein expression were studied in the presence of tyrosine kinase inhibitor genistein to elucidate the involvement of tyrosine kinase in mediating these effects. Key results: The oestrogenic effects of Rg1 in MCF-7 cells were abolished in the presence of PD98059. Rg1 could induce MEK protein expression and the phosphorylation level of MEK and ERK significantly in a time- and dose-dependent manner. Rg1 activated MEK phosphorylation in ER-negative HEK293 cells in a time- and dose-dependent manner. Rg1 induction of cell proliferation and IGF-IR protein expression was abolished by co-treatment with genistein. Conclusions and implications: Taken together, these results show that the MAPK pathway is involved in mediating the oestrogen-like actions of Rg1 in MCF-7 cells and suggest that Rg1 may activate ERα via MEK/ERK in a ligand-independent manner.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1136-1146
Number of pages11
JournalBritish Journal of Pharmacology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2009


  • ERα
  • Ginsenoside Rg1
  • MAPK
  • Phytoestrogens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology

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