Selenium inhibits growth of trastuzumab-resistant human breast cancer cells via downregulation of Akt and beclin-1

Joohyun Woo, Jong Bin Kim, Taeeun Cho, Eun Hye Yoo, Byung In Moon, Hyungju Kwon, Woosung Lim

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8 Scopus citations


The response rate to treatment with trastuzumab (Tz), a recombinant humanized anti-HER2 monoclonal antibody, is only 12–34% despite demonstrated effectiveness on improving the survival of patients with HER2-positive breast cancers. Selenium has an antitumor effect against cancer cells and can play a cytoprotective role on normal cells. This study investigated the effect of selenium on HER2-positive breast cancer cells and the mechanism in relation to the response of the cells to Tz. HER2-positive breast cancer cell lines, SK-BR-3 as trastuzumab-sensitive cells, and JIMT-1 as Tz-resistant cells were treated with Tz and sodium selenite (selenite). Cell survival rates and expression of Her2, Akt, and autophagy-related proteins, including LC3B and beclin 1, in both cell lines 72 h after treatment were evaluated. Significant cell death was induced at different concentrations of selenite in both cell lines. A combined effect of selenite and Tz at 72 h was similar to or significantly greater than each drug alone. The expression of phosphorylated Akt (p-Akt) was decreased in JIMT-1 after combination treatment compared to that after only Tz treatment, while p-Akt expression was increased in SK-BR-3. The expression of beclin1 increased particularly in JIMT-1 after only Tz treatment and was downregulated by combination treatment. These results showed that combination of Tz and selenite had an antitumor effect in Tz-resistant breast cancer cells through downregulation of phosphorylated Akt and beclin1-related autophagy. Selenite might be a potent drug to treat Tz-resistant breast cancer by several mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0257298
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9 September
StatePublished - Sep 2021


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