Naringenin: A weakly estrogenic bioflavonoid that exhibits antiestrogenic activity

Mary F. Ruh, Timothy Zacharewski, Kevin Connor, James Howell, Ichen Chen, Stephen Safe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Treatment of immature 21-day-old female Sprague-Dawley rats with 17β-estradiol (E2) (0.5 μg/rat) caused a significant increase in uterine wet weight, DNA synthesis, progesterone receptor (PR) binding, and peroxidase activity. At doses as high as 40 mg/rat, the bioflavonoid naringenin did not cause a significant increase in any of these E2-induced responses. However, in rats cotreated with E2 (0.5 μg/rat) plus naringenin (30 mg/rat), there was a significant decrease in E2-induced uterine wet weight, DNA synthesis, PR binding, and peroxidase activity, indicating that naringenin exhibits antiestrogenic activity in the immature rodent uterus. The binding of uterine nuclear extracts to a 32P-labeled estrogen responsive element (ERE) or progesterone responsive element (PRE) was determined using gel electrophoretic band shift assays. Incubation of [32P]ERE with uterine nuclear extracts from rats treated with naringenin or E2 resulted in the formation of estrogen receptor (ER):ERE complexes; a higher mobility complex was prominent in the extracts from E2-treated rats, whereas a lower mobility complex was observed using nuclear extracts from naringenin-treated animals. There was a significant decrease in the intensity of the E2-induced complex using nuclear extracts from rats treated with E2 plus naringenin. In contrast, transformed cytosol from control rats gave an intense ER:ERE complex, whereas the intensity of the band was decreased markedly using transformed uterine cytosol from treated rats. Formation of a PR:PRE complex was also determined using transformed uterine cytosol. Cytosol from E2-treated rats gave an intense retarded band, whereas only weak bands were observed using cytosols from DMSO- (solvent), naringenin-, or naringenin plus E2-treated cells. The results of in vitro studies showed that 1 nM E2 increased (3- to 4-fold) the growth of MCF-7 human breast cancer cells, whereas 1-1000 nM naringenin had no effect on cell proliferation. In cells cotreated with 1 nM E2 plus 1000 nM naringenin, there was a significant decrease in E2-induced cell growth. In MCF-7 cells transiently transfected with a pS2 promoter-regulated luciferase reporter gene, naringenin exhibited weak estrogenic activity. In cells cotreated with 0.1 or 1.0 μM naringenin plus 1 nM E2, naringenin inhibited E2-induced luciferase activity. The results of these studies confirmed that naringenin is a weak estrogen that also exhibits partial antiestrogenic activity in the female rat uterus and MCF-7 human breast cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1485-1493
Number of pages9
JournalBiochemical pharmacology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 26 1995


  • antiestrogenicity
  • estradiol
  • estrogenicity
  • naringenin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Pharmacology


Dive into the research topics of 'Naringenin: A weakly estrogenic bioflavonoid that exhibits antiestrogenic activity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this