Bruceine A: Suppressing metastasis via MEK/ERK pathway and invoking mitochondrial apoptosis in triple-negative breast cancer

Xiao Li, Changqun Liu, Xin Zhang, Chen Sun, Jie Ling, Yilan Liu, Yi Zuo, Yuening Cao, Chaozheng Zhang, Tao Jiang, Maolin Wang*, Jin Liu, Jun Lu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), as the most aggressive subtype of breast cancer, presents a scarcity of miraculous drugs in suppressing its proliferation and metastasis. Bruceine A (BA) is a functional group-rich quassin compound with extensive and distinctive pharmacological activities. Within the present study, we investigated the capabilities of BA in suppressing TNBC proliferation and metastasis as well as its potential mechanisms. The results displayed that BA dramatically repressed the proliferation of MDA-MB-231 and 4T1 cells with corresponding IC50 values of 78.4 nM and 524.6 nM, respectively. Concurrently, BA arrested cells in G1 phase by downregulating cycle-related proteins Cyclin D1 and CDK4. Furthermore, BA distinctly induced mitochondrial dysfunction as manifested by diminished mitochondrial membrane potential, elevated reactive oxygen species generation, minimized ATP production, and Caspase-dependent activation of the mitochondrial apoptosis pathway. Additionally, BA restrained the invasion and metastasis of TNBC cells by repressing MMP9 and MMP2 expression. Intriguingly, after pretreatment with MEK activator C16-PAF, the inhibitory effect of BA on MEK/ERK pathway was notably diminished, while the proliferation suppression and metastasis repression exerted by BA were all strikingly curtailed. Molecular docking illustrated that BA potently combined with residues on the MEK1 protein with the presence of diverse intermolecular interactions. Ultimately, BA effectively suppressed tumor growth in the 4T1 xenograft tumor model with no detectable visceral toxicity in the high-dose group and, astonishingly, repressed tumor metastasis in the 4T1-luc lung metastasis model. Collectively, our study demonstrates that BA is a promising chemotherapeutic agent for treating TNBC and suppressing lung metastasis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115784
JournalBiomedicine and Pharmacotherapy
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Pharmacology

User-Defined Keywords

  • Bruceine A
  • Lung metastasis
  • MEK/ERK pathway
  • Mitochondrial apoptosis pathway
  • Triple-negative breast cancer


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