Endometrial cancer is a common gynecological cancer with a poor prognosis, mostly attributed to tumor metastasis. Epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) can be mediated via transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) signaling pathway, facilitating the ability of cancer cell invasion and migration. Isoliquiritigenin (ISL) is a flavonoid derived from licorice with reported antineoplastic activities. This study aims to investigate the anti-metastatic potential of ISL on endometrial cancer both in vitro and in vivo. First, human endometrial cancer cell lines (HEC-1A, Ishikawa, and RL95-2) were treated with ISL and then subjected to functional assays such as migration assay as well as molecular analyses including immunoblotting, immune fluorescence and RT-qPCR. In addition, HEC1A-LUC cells were implanted into female nude mice and treated with ISL by intraperitoneal injection for four weeks. Results showed that ISL inhibited cell migration and reversed the effect of TGF-β on the expression of E-cadherin, N-cadherin, vimentin, α-SMA, p-Smad3, and TWIST1/2 In vitro. Interestingly, In vivo study revealed that ISL reduced peritoneal dissemination and serum level of TGF-β1, as well as decreased the expression levels of N-cadherin, p-Smad2/3, TWIST1/2, while increased E-cadherin. Overall, ISL reverses the EMT through targeting the TGF-β/Smad signaling pathway and features a potential therapeutic treatment for metastatic endometrial cancer.
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