Effects of selenium compounds on proliferation and epigenetic marks of breast cancer cells

Juliana Xavier de Miranda, Fábia de Oliveira Andrade, Aline de Conti, Maria Lúcia Zaidan Dagli, Fernando Salvador Moreno, Thomas Prates Ong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Breast cancer is a global public health problem and the most frequent cause of cancer death among women. Mammary carcinogenesis is driven not only by genetic alterations but also by epigenetic disturbances. Because epigenetic marks are potentially reversible they represent promising molecular targets for breast cancer prevention interventions. Selenium is a promising anti-breast cancer trace element that has shown the modulation of DNA methylation and histone post-translational modifications in other malignancies. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of selenium compounds [methylseleninic acid (MSA) and selenite] on cell proliferation and death, expression of the tumor suppressor gene RASSF1A and epigenetic marks in MCF-7 human breast adenocarcinoma cells. Treatment with MSA or selenite markedly inhibited (. P<. 0.05) in a dose-dependent manner the proliferation of MCF-7 cells. MSA induced (. P<. 0.05) G2/M cell arrest while selenite presented the opposite effect. Regarding cell death induction, MSA acted mainly by inducing apoptosis (. P<. 0.05), while selenite only induced necrosis (. P<. 0.05). Furthermore selenite, but not MSA, markedly induced (. P<. 0.05) cytotoxicity and increased (. P<. 0.05) RASSF1A expression. Both selenium compounds inhibited (. P<. 0.05) DNMT1 expression. MSA decreased (. P<. 0.05) H3K9me3 and increased (. P<. 0.05) H4K16ac, while selenite decreased (. P<. 0.05) this latter histone mark. To the best of our knowledge this is the first report showing that selenite and MSA modulate epigenetic marks specifically in breast cancer cells. Our data reinforce the anti-breast cancer potential of selenium that is dependent on its chemical form. Furthermore the data show that epigenetic mechanisms represent relevant molecular targets involved in selenium inhibitory effects in breast cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)486-491
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier GmbH.


  • Apoptosis
  • Epigenetic marks
  • MCF-7 breast cancer cells
  • Selenium


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of selenium compounds on proliferation and epigenetic marks of breast cancer cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this