Inhibition of 5α-reductase in genital skin fibroblasts and prostate tissue by dietary lignans and isoflavonoids


    Isoflavonoids and lignans, constituents of many plant foods, have been proposed as protective agents in those populations with a low incidence of hormone-dependent cancers. They may act by their inhibition of the metabolism of growth-promoting steroid hormones. This report describes the inhibition of 5α-reductase and 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase by six isoflavonoids and two lignans in human genital skin fibroblast monolayers and homogenates, and in benign prostatic hyperplasia tissue homogenates. In genital skin fibroblasts, genistein, biochanin A and equol were the most potent inhibitors of 5α-reductase activity, each resulting in greater than 80% inhibition at a concentration of 100 μm. The IC50 values for genistein and a seven-compound mixture were approximately 35 μm and 20 μm (2·9 μm of each compound) respectively. Of the lignans, enterolactone was the most potent inhibitor. Inhibition by biochanin A was shown to be reversible. When genital skin fibroblast homogenates were used, biochanin A was found to inhibit 5α-reductase isozymes 1 and 2 to differing extents (30% and 75% respectively). Genistein was shown to inhibit 5α-reductase 2 in a non-competitive nature (Vmax and Km values without and with inhibitor were 30 and 20 pmol/mg protein per h and 177 and 170 nm respectively). All of the compounds tested inhibited 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase activity in genital skin fibroblast monolayers. When prostate tissue homogenates were used, the compounds tested were better inhibitors of 5α-reductase 1 than 2. It is possible that a life-long dietary exposure to these lignans and isoflavonoids may have a significant influence on the development of hormone-dependent tumours.

    Journal of Endocrinology (1995) 147, 295–302

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