The consumption of coffee has been suggested to effectively enhance the therapeutic effects of tamoxifen against breast cancer; however, the underlying molecular mechanisms remain unclear. We herein attempted to clarify how coffee decoction exerts anti-cancer effects in cooperation with tamoxifen using the estrogen receptor α (ERα)-positive breast cancer cell line, MCF-7. The results obtained showed that coffee decoction down-regulated the expression of ERα, which was attributed to caffeine inhibiting its transcription. Coffee decoction cooperated with tamoxifen to induce cell-cycle arrest and apoptotic cell death, which may have been mediated by decreases in cyclin D1 expression and the activation of p53 tumor suppressor. The inclusion of caffeine in coffee decoction was essential, but not sufficient, to induce cell-cycle arrest and apoptotic cell death, suggesting the requirement of unknown compound(s) in coffee decoction to decrease cyclin D1 expression and activate apoptotic signaling cascades including p53. The activation of p53 through the cooperative effects of these unidentified component(s), caffeine, and tamoxifen appeared to be due to the suppression of the ERK and Akt pathways. Although the mechanisms by which the suppression of these pathways induces p53-mediated apoptotic cell death remain unclear, the combination of decaffeinated coffee, caffeine, and tamoxifen also caused cell-cycle arrest and apoptotic cell death, suggesting that unknown compound(s) present in decaffeinated coffee cooperate with caffeine and tamoxifen.
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