BDE-99 (2,2’,4,4’,5-pentabromodiphenyl ether) triggers epithelial-mesenchymal transition in colorectal cancer cells via PI3K/Akt/Snail signaling pathway



The gut is in direct contact with BDE-99 (2,2’,4,4’,5-pentabromodiphenyl ether), one of the most abundant PBDE congeners in the environment and in human tissues. The objective of the present study was to investigate the effects of BDE-99 on colorectal cancer (CRC) cells.


The effects of BDE-99 on cell proliferation were measured by CCK-8 assay in the CRC cell line HCT-116. Wound healing and transwell migration/invasion assays were used to test the migration and invasion of CRC cells. Factors related to epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) were measured by real-time PCR and Western blot analysis for mRNA and protein levels, respectively.


BDE-99 was found to increase migration and invasion and trigger EMT in HCT-116 cells; EMT was characterized by cells acquiring mesenchymal spindle-like morphology and by increased expression of N-cadherin with a concomitant decrease in E-cadherin. BDE-99 treatment also increased the protein and mRNA levels of the transcription factor Snail, but not Slug, Twist, and ZEB1. Knockdown of Snail by siRNA significantly attenuated BDE-99-induced EMT in HCT-116 cells, suggesting that Snail plays a crucial role in BDE-99-induced EMT. The PI3K/Akt inhibitor LY294002 completely blocked BDE-99-induced Snail and invasion of HCT-116 cells.


Our results revealed that BDE-99 can trigger the EMT of colon cancer cells via the PI3K/AKT/Snail signaling pathway. This study provides new insight into the tumorigenesis and metastasis of CRC stimulated by BDE-99 and possibly other PBDE congeners.

Tumori 2015; 101(2): 238 - 245




Fei Wang, Xin-Jian Ruan, Hong-Yan Zhang

Article History


Financial support: No foundation supports.
Conflict of interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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  • Medical Oncology, Beijing Military General Hospital, Beijing - China

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