Objective: Breast cancer is one of the most common diseases among women worldwide and it is
characterized by a high ratio of malignancy and metastasis and low rate of survival of patients. Due to limited
treatment options, the discovery of alternative therapeutic agents and clarifying the molecular mechanism of
breast cancer development may offer new hope for its treatment. Lichen secondary metabolites may be one of
these therapeutic agents.
Methods: In this study, the effects of Vulpinic Acid (VA) lichen secondary metabolite on the cell viability and
apoptosis of breast cancer cells and non-cancerous cell line were investigated. Quantitative polymerase chain
reaction was also performed to determine changes in the expression of apoptosis-related genes at a molecular
Results: The results demonstrated that VA significantly inhibited the cell viability and induced apoptosis of
human breast cancer cells. The highest rates of decreased growth were determined using the IC50 value of VA
for 48h on MCF-7 breast cancer cell. Interestingly, VA treatment significantly reduced cell viability in all examined
breast cancer cell lines compared to their non-cancerous human breast epithelial cell line. This is the first
study on the investigation of the effects of VA on the molecular mechanisms associated with the expression of
apoptosis-related genes in breast cancer cell lines. Results demonstrated that the gene expression of P53 genes
was altered up to fourteen-fold levels in SK-BR-3 cell lines whereas it reached 2.5-fold in the MCF-12A cell
line after treatment with VA. These observations support that VA induces apoptosis on the breast cancer cells
compared with the non-cancerous human breast epithelial cell line.
Conclusion: It is implicated that VA may be a promising novel molecule for the induction of apoptosis on
breast cancer cells.