Patients with triple-negative breast cancer have few therapeutic strategy options. In this study, we investigated the effect of isoliquiritigenin (ISL) on the proliferation of triple-negative breast cancer cells. We found that treatment with ISL inhibited triple-negative breast cancer cell line (MDA-MB-231) cell growth and increased cytotoxicity. ISL reduced cell cycle progression through the reduction of cyclin D1 protein expression and increased the sub-G1 phase population. The ISL-induced apoptotic cell population was observed by flow cytometry analysis. The expression of Bcl-2 protein was reduced by ISL treatment, whereas the Bax protein level increased; subsequently, the downstream signaling molecules caspase-3 and poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) were activated. Moreover, ISL reduced the expression of total and phosphorylated mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), ULK1, and cathepsin B, whereas the expression of autophagic-associated proteins p62, Beclin1, and LC3 was increased. The decreased cathepsin B cause the p62 accumulation to induce caspase-8 mediated apoptosis. In vivo studies further showed that preventive treatment with ISL could inhibit breast cancer growth and induce apoptotic and autophagic-mediated apoptosis cell death. Taken together, ISL exerts an effect on the inhibition of triple-negative MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell growth through autophagy-mediated apoptosis. Therefore, future studies of ISL as a supplement or alternative therapeutic agent for clinical trials against breast cancer are warranted.
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