Melatonin has been shown to have a direct inhibitory action on the proliferation of estrogen-responsive MCF-7 human breast cancer cells in culture. In the present study, we examined by flow cytometry whether this inhibitory effect might be exerted on the G1 phase of the cell cycle, thus causing a transition delay into the S phase. In order to further verify this hypothesis we tested the ability of estradiol to "rescue" MCF-7 cells from melatonin inhibition, and the potential of this indoleamine to block the ability of estradiol to rescue the cells from tamoxifen inhibition. Following five days of incubation, melatonin (10(-9)M) increased the fraction of cells in G1 of the cell cycle while simultaneously causing a 50% reduction in the proportion of cells in S phase. The antiproliferative effect of melatonin (10(-5)M) was prevented by the simultaneous treatment of the cells with estradiol (10(-8)M) in clonogenic soft agar culture, or reversed by the addition of estradiol to cells previously incubated with and inhibited by melatonin(10(-9)M) in monolayer culture. Additionally, melatonin blocked the estrogen-rescue of tamoxifen-inhibited cells in both types of culture systems. These results support the hypothesis that the antiproliferative effect of melatonin, like tamoxifen, is cell cycle specific by causing a G1-S transition delay. These results also indicate an important interaction of melatonin with estrogen-mediated mechanisms of MCF-7 cell proliferation.
Effects of melatonin on the cell cycle kinetics and "estrogen-rescue" of MCF-7 human breast cancer cells in culture