Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are subpopulations of tumor masses with unique abilities in self-renewal, stemness maintenance, drug resistance, and the promotion of cancer recurrence. Recent studies have suggested that breast CSCs play essential roles in chemoresistance. Therefore, new agents that selectively target such cells are urgently required. Reactive oxygen species (ROS)-producing enzymes are the reason for an elevated tumor oxidant status. The nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a transcriptional factor, which upon detecting cellular oxidative stress, binds to the promoter region of antioxidant genes. By triggering a cytoprotective response, Nrf2 maintains cellular redox status. Cripto-1 participates in the self-renewal of CSCs. Herein, luteolin, a flavonoid found in Taraxacum officinale extract, was determined to inhibit the expressions of stemness-related transcriptional factors, the ATP-binding cassette transporter G2 (ABCG2), CD44, aldehyde dehydrogenase 1 activity as well as the sphere formation properties of breast CSCs. Furthermore, luteolin suppressed the protein expressions of Nrf2, heme oxygenase 1 (HO-1), and Cripto-1 which have been determined to contribute critically to CSC features. The combination of luteolin and the chemotherapeutic drug, Taxol, resulted in enhanced cytotoxicity to breast cancer cells. These findings suggest that luteolin treatment significantly attenuated the hallmarks of breast cancer stemness by downregulating Nrf2-mediated expressions. Luteolin constitutes a potential agent for use in cancer stemness-targeted breast cancer treatments.
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