Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is an endogenous hormone that acts as a ligand for several cellular receptors. An age-dependent decline in circulating levels of DHEA is linked to changes in various physiological functions. In gynecological clinical practice, DHEA is commonly prescribed to induce ovulation. Some clinical studies report a positive association between high serum concentrations of DHEA and an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. However, the in vitro physiological effects of DHEA on ovarian cancerous cells have not been explored thus far. In this study, we aimed to investigate the physiological effects of DHEA treatment (0-200 μM, 24-72 hours) on MDAH-2774 human ovarian cancer cell line and primary HuVeC human endothelial cells.
Materials and methods
The physiological effects of DHEA treatment (0-200 μM, 24-72 hours) on MDAH-2774 human ovarian cancer cell line and primary HuVeC human endothelial cells were investigated with the (3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide) test, acridine orange/ethidium bromide staining, and scratch assay.
DHEA treatment promoted proliferation of the MDAH-2774 cancer cell line in a dose-dependent manner (r=0.6906, p<0.0001, for 24 hours) (r=0.6802, p<0.0001, for 48 hours) (r=0.7969, p<0.0001, for 72 hours). In contrast, DHEA inhibited proliferation of the primary HuVeC cells (r=0.9490, p<0.0001, for 24 hours) (r=0.9533, p<0.0001, for 48 hours) (r=0.9584, p<0.0001, for 72 hours). In agreement with these observations, DHEA treatment resulted in a dose-dependent increase in the number of necrotic cells in the primary HuVeC cells (r=0.97, p<0.0001). However, the number of necrotic or apoptotic cells did not change significantly when the MDAH-2774 cells was exposed to DHEA. Moreover, we found that DHEA treatment reduced the migration rate of HuVeC cells in a dose-dependent manner (r=0.9868, p<0.0001), whereas only a slight increase was observed in the MDAH-2774 ovarian cancer cell line (r=0.8938, p<0.05).
Our findings suggest that DHEA promotes the proliferation of ovarian cancer cells in a dose-dependent manner in vitro. Moreover, DHEA induced necrosis and inhibited proliferation in endothelial cells. Although mechanistic evidence is required, our preliminary findings imply that exposure to high doses of DHEA may be associated with an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.