Natural compounds with possible health benefits have become attractive targets for research in areas pertaining to human health. For both prevention and therapy of various human ailments, such compounds are preferred over synthetic ones due to their lesser toxicity. They are also easily absorbed and processed by our body. Vitamins are prominent among natural or endogenous compounds that are considered to be beneficial. The vitamin E group of compounds is among the better known of the vitamins due to their suggested health benefits including antioxidant and related protective properties. Among these, tocotrienols have gained prominence in recent years due to their potential applications and better protective effects in certain systems. These tocotrienols are vitamin E derivatives that are analogs of the more established forms of vitamin E namely tocopherols. In addition to their potent antioxidant activity, tocotrienols have other important functions, especially in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system and a possible role in protection against cancer and other ailments.
The biosynthesis of natural products in a fast growing and easy to manipulate heterologous host system, such as Escherichia coli, is of increasing interest in biotechnology. This procedure allows the investigation of complex natural product biosynthesis and facilitates the engineering of pathways. Here we describe the cloning and the heterologous expression of tocochromanol (vitamin E) biosynthesis genes in E. coli. Tocochromanols are synthesized solely in photosynthetic organisms (cyanobacteria, algae, and higher green plants). For recombinant tocochromanol biosynthesis, the genes encoding hydroxyphenylpyruvate dioxygenase (hpd), geranylgeranylpyrophosphate synthase (crtE), geranylgeranylpyrophosphate reductase (ggh), homogentisate phytyltransferase (hpt), and tocopherol-cyclase (cyc) were cloned in a stepwise fashion and expressed in E. coli. Recombinant E. coli cells were cultivated and analyzed for tocochromanol compounds and their biosynthesis precursors. The expression of only hpd from Pseudomonas putida or crtE from Pantoea ananatis resulted in the accumulation of 336 mg L(-1) homogentisate and 84 microg L(-1) geranylgeranylpyrophosphate in E. coli cultures. Simultaneous expression of hpd, crtE, and hpt from Synechocystis sp. under the control of single tac-promoter resulted in the production of methyl-6-geranylgeranyl-benzoquinol (67.9 microg g(-1)). Additional expression of the tocopherol cyclase gene vte1 from Arabidopsis thaliana resulted in the novel formation of a vitamin E compound-delta-tocotrienol (15 microg g(-1))-in E. coli.
Numerous dietary phytochemicals have shown anti-breast carcinogenic activities when tested in vitro; however, in most cases, the demonstrated efficacy of individual phytochemicals requires doses not readily achievable in vivo. Therefore, whether diets might exert translational promises and benefits in clinical settings and prevention of breast cancer remain unclear. Since cancer cells are endowed with complex, redundant, converging and diverging pathways spanning both the genetic and metabolic networks that are not merely replicates of those in normal cells, it is of interest to test whether a multicomponent approach involving lower, physiologically relevant doses of natural dietary agents may be developed as a chemopreventive strategy for breast cancer. Herein, we investigated, using the estrogen receptor-positive MCF-7 breast cancer cells as a model, whether the combination of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), resveratrol and gamma-tocotrienol at suboptimal doses elicits synergism in suppressing cell proliferation, modulating gene expression, and increasing antioxidant activity, as compared to each of the three phytochemicals added alone. The results showed that there was a approximately 33, 50 and 58% inhibition of cell proliferation by > or =50 microM EGCG, > or =25 microM resveratrol and > or =10 microM gamma-tocotrienol, respectively, added as a single agent. When a suboptimal dose (10 microM) of each phytochemical was used, a significant additive effect in suppression of cell proliferation was observed with the combination of resveratrol and gamma-tocotrienol whereas the three phytochemicals added together did not produce more pronounced inhibition of cell proliferation. A significant additive effect in reducing cyclin D1 and bcl-2 expression was found when gamma-tocotrienol was added with either EGCG or resveratrol. Functional synergism among the three phytochemicals was only observed in the induction of quinone reductase NQO1. These results suggest that diet-based protection against breast cancer may partly derive from synergy amongst dietary phytochemicals directed against specific molecular targets in responsive breast cancer cells, and provide support for the feasibility of the development of a diet-based combinatorial approach in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer.