Broccoli can be an aid in cancer treatments

Broccoli can offer benefits beyond its nutritional value. A compound, 3,3′-Diindolylmethane (DIM), derived from the digestion of indole-3-carbinol, found in Brussels sprouts, has extremely positive benefits in anticancer treatments, such as the induction of cell death in the breast, colon and prostate cancer. Researchers are beginning to elucidate the mechanism behind this molecular behavior, information that could shed new light on cancer treatments.

In a report published December 10, 2021 in PLOS One, researchers from Hiroshima University summarize their discovery by stating that DIM also triggers controlled whole cell death and the recycling of cellular components in fission yeast. Whether the mechanism of DIM-induced damage is conserved in humans remains to be seen, but the author of the article, Masaru Ueno, explained that single-cell fission yeast allows for easier examination of the molecular mechanism that mimics behavior in organisms. more complex.

“We found that DIM triggers a new biological activity that damages nuclear membranes in fission yeast,” said Ueno, associate professor at the Hiroshima Research Center for Healthy Aging, Graduate School of Integrated Sciences for Life, Hiroshima University.

Nuclear membranes hold the cell’s genetic information. Once the genetic material is replicated, the nuclear envelope, which includes the inner and outer membrane, splits in two and separates, resulting in two cells where there once was one.

“The integrity of nuclear membranes is important for human health,” Ueno said. “Mutations that cause defects in the nuclear membrane accelerate aging. Nuclear membranes also break down and repair themselves as cancer cells migrate.”

Part of the cell repair process is called autophagy or “self-feeding”. It is the path of degradation of cellular components, in which the cell will consume its internal parts to conserve energy and optimize life-sustaining processes. Ueno also pointed out that autophagy is implicated in both aging and age-related diseases. If repair is no longer an option, the cells will go through a programmed death process called apoptosis. According to Ueno, many cytotoxic anticancer drugs work by inducing apoptosis, so being able to control the process can help preserve and improve human health.

“Our findings suggest that the nuclear envelope may be one of the first targets of the DIM,” said the paper’s author, Parvaneh Emami, a graduate of the Graduate School of Integrated Sciences for Life, Hiroshima University.

This finding builds on a previous report by a German research group, which found that a high concentration of DIM increases the life cycle of fission yeast. It may seem a contradiction that a compound that induces apoptosis can increase the life cycle of an organism, but Emami explained that DIM appears to induce such behavior only in cells that divide exponentially, such as cancer. If the cancer cells die, the body can live longer.

“Recent human studies show that DIM is a potential anticancer drug that works by inducing apoptosis in a wide range of cancers, including breast, prostate, gastric and pancreatic,” said Ueno. “The research also shows that DIM induces autophagy in cancer cells. However, the impact of autophagy on tumor formation and progression is not yet fully understood. DIM in fission yeast may be useful for human cancer and longevity research. We think that studying the structure of the nuclear envelope could be a good starting point. “

Researchers will continue to study the role of DIM in fission yeast.