Hypoxia in the microenvironment is related to chemotherapy resistance, tumor progression, and metastasis. Curcumin, as a phenolic compound extracted from the turmeric, has been used as an anti-cancer agent with low toxicity in recent years. Since curcumin has inhibitory activities against hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) in several cancers, this study was conducted to examine the effect of curcumin on MCF-7 cells and cancer stem-like cells (CS-LCs) under hypoxic and normoxic conditions. CS-LCs were isolated from MCF-7 cells using the magnet activated cell sorting (MACS) method based on CD/ CD surface markers. The effects of curcumin on the viability of MCF-7 cells and CS-LCs were examined in hypoxic and normoxic conditions using the MTT test. The effects of curcumin on apoptosis and cell cycle of CS-LCs and MCF-7 cells were analyzed using flow cytometry. Moreover, the inhibitory effects of curcumin on the levels of HIF-1 and HIF-2α protein in CS-LCs were investigated using the western blot method. Early apoptosis occurred in CSC-LCs more than MCF-7 cells under hypoxic conditions. Flow cytometry assay showed that curcumin caused cell cycle arrest of CSC-LCs and MCF-7 at the G2/M phase under hypoxic conditions while under normoxic conditions, arrest occurred at the G0/G1 phase in MCF-7 cells and at S and G2/M phases in CS-LCs. Based on the results, the curcumin inhibited the expression of HIF-1 by degrading ARNT in CS-LCs.In conclusion, curcumin has inhibitory effects on MCF- 7 cells and CS- LCs and thus may be used as an antitumor agent.
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