Although soy consumption is associated with breast cancer prevention, the low bioavailability and the extensive metabolism of soy-active components limit their clinical application. Here, the impact of daidzein (D) and its metabolites on estrogen-dependent anti-apoptotic pathway has been evaluated in breast cancer cells. In estrogen receptor α-positive breast cancer cells treated with D and its metabolites, single or in mixture, ERα activation and Neuroglobin (NGB) levels, an anti-apoptotic estrogen/ERα-inducible protein, were evaluated. Moreover, the apoptotic cascade activation, as well as the cell number after stimulation was assessed in the absence/presence of paclitaxel to determine the compound effects on cell susceptibility to a chemotherapeutic agent. Among the metabolites, only D-4′-sulfate maintains the anti-estrogenic effect of D, reducing the NGB levels and rendering breast cancer cells more prone to the paclitaxel treatment, whereas other metabolites showed estrogen mimetic effects, or even estrogen independent effects. Intriguingly, the co-stimulation of D and gut metabolites strongly reduced D effects. The results highlight the important and complex influence of metabolic transformation on isoflavones physiological effects and demonstrate the need to take biotransformation into account when assessing the potential health benefits of consumption of soy isoflavones in cancer.
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