Gamma tocotrienol targets tyrosine phosphatase SHP2 in mammospheres resulting in cell death through RAS/ERK pathway

Gu, Wenyi, Prasadam, Indira, Yu, Meihua, Zhang, Fengxia, Ling, Patrick, Xiao, Yin, & Yu, Chengzhong (2015) Gamma tocotrienol targets tyrosine phosphatase SHP2 in mammospheres resulting in cell death through RAS/ERK pathway. BMC Cancer, 15, Article 609.

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There is increasing evidence supporting the concept of cancer stem cells (CSCs), which are responsible for the initiation, growth and metastasis of tumors. CSCs are thus considered the target for future cancer therapies. To achieve this goal, identifying potential therapeutic targets for CSCs is essential.


We used a natural product of vitamin E, gamma tocotrienol (gamma-T3), to treat mammospheres and spheres from colon and cervical cancers. Western blotting and real-time RT-PCR were employed to identify the gene and protein targets of gamma-T3 in mammospheres.


We found that mammosphere growth was inhibited in a dose dependent manner, with total inhibition at high doses. Gamma-T3 also inhibited sphere growth in two other human epithelial cancers, colon and cervix. Our results suggested that both Src homology 2 domain-containing phosphatase 1 (SHP1) and 2 (SHP2) were affected by gamma-T3 which was accompanied by a decrease in K- and H-Ras gene expression and phosphorylated ERK protein levels in a dose dependent way. In contrast, expression of self-renewal genes TGF-beta and LIF, as well as ESR signal pathways were not affected by the treatment. These results suggest that gamma-T3 specifically targets SHP2 and the RAS/ERK signaling pathway.


SHP1 and SHP2 are potential therapeutic targets for breast CSCs and gamma-T3 is a promising natural drug for future breast cancer therapy.

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2 citations in Scopus
1 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 85163
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Cancer stem cells, Mammosphere, SHP1, SHP2, Sphere forming cells, Gamma Tocotrienol/γ-T3, Cervical cancer, Breast cancer, Colon cancer, Ras/ERK pathway
DOI: 10.1186/s12885-015-1614-1
ISSN: 1471-2407
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES (060000)
Divisions: Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 Gu et al.
Copyright Statement: Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Deposited On: 03 Sep 2015 03:17
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2015 21:21

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