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Open access

Haojun Luo, Guanglun Yang, Tenghua Yu, Shujuan Luo, Chengyi Wu, Yan Sun, Manran Liu and Gang Tu

Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are crucial co-mediators of breast cancer progression. Estrogen is the predominant driving force in the cyclic regulation of the mammary extracellular matrix, thus potentially affecting the tumor-associated stroma. Recently, a third estrogen receptor, estrogen (G-protein-coupled) receptor (GPER), has been reported to be expressed in breast CAFs. In this study, GPER was detected by immunohistochemical analysis in stromal fibroblasts of 41.8% (59/141) of the primary breast cancer samples. GPER expression in CAFs isolated from primary breast cancer tissues was confirmed by immunostaining and RT-PCR analyses. Tamoxifen (TAM) in addition to 17β-estradiol (E2) and the GPER agonist G1 activated GPER, resulting in transient increases in cell index, intracellular calcium, and ERK1/2 phosphorylation. Furthermore, TAM, E2, and G1 promoted CAF proliferation and cell-cycle progression, both of which were blocked by GPER interference, the selective GPER antagonist G15, the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitor AG1478, and the ERK1/2 inhibitor U0126. Importantly, TAM as well as G1 increased E2 production in breast CAFs via GPER/EGFR/ERK signaling when the substrate of E2, testosterone, was added to the medium. GPER-induced aromatase upregulation was probably responsible for this phenomenon, as TAM- and G1-induced CYP19A1 gene expression was reduced by GPER knockdown and G15, AG1478, and U0126 administration. Accordingly, GPER-mediated CAF-dependent estrogenic effects on the tumor-associated stroma are conceivable, and CAF is likely to contribute to breast cancer progression, especially TAM resistance, via a positive feedback loop involving GPER/EGFR/ERK signaling and E2 production.

Free access

Marie Mc Ilroy, Fergal J Fleming, Yvonne Buggy, Arnold D K Hill and Leonie S Young

Differential signalling between the two oestrogen receptor (ER) isoforms in the presence of tamoxifen has been described. We hypothesise that differential recruitment of the steroid receptor co-activator, SRC-3 to ER-α and ER-β may in part explain associations between ER isoforms and response to endocrine treatment. SRC-3 was localised within epithelial cells of breast tumour tissue and was co-localised with ER-α and ER-β, (n = 112). Expression of SRC-3 was found to be positively associated with ER-α (P = 0.0021) and inversely with ER-β (P < 0.0001). Uniquely, this study utilises primary cell cultures derived from patient tumours, thus providing samples not readily available in most molecular model systems. These samples have enabled us to investigate the influence of growth factor pathways on steroid receptor-co-activator interactions. In HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) positive primary tumour cell cultures 17β-estradiol induced a decrease in SRC-3, whereas upregulated SRC-3 expression. Furthermore, treatment with tamoxifen-induced SRC-3 recruitment to the ER-oestrogen response element and enhanced interaction between SRC-3 and ER-α, but not ER-β. Knockdown of SRC-3 results in a concomitant loss of expression of the oestrogen target gene pS2. Furthermore, silencing of SRC-3 resensitizes endocrine resistant, HER2 positive cells to the anti-proliferative effects of tamoxifen. The ability of ER-α, but not ER-β to recruit SRC-3 in the presence of tamoxifen may in part explain the differential ER isoform associations with recurrence in human breast cancer.

Free access

Patricia de Cremoux, Dan Rosenberg, Jacques Goussard, Catherine Brémont-Weil, Frédérique Tissier, Carine Tran-Perennou, Lionnel Groussin, Xavier Bertagna, Jérôme Bertherat and Marie-Laure Raffin-Sanson

Adrenal tumors occur more frequently in women and are the leading cause of Cushing's syndrome during pregnancy. We aimed to evaluate the potential role of sex steroids in the susceptibility of women to adrenocortical tumors. We evaluated the presence of the progesterone receptor (PR), estradiol receptors (ERs), and aromatase in 5 patients with primary pigmented nodular adrenal disease (PPNAD), 15 adrenocortical adenomas (ACAs) and adjacent normal tissues, 12 adrenocortical carcinomas (ACCs), and 3 normal adrenal glands (NA). The expression of PR and ERα was evaluated by enzyme immunoassays, real-time RT-PCR, immunohistochemistry, and cytosol-based ligand-binding assays. ERβ and aromatase levels were evaluated by real-time RT-PCR. ERα concentrations were low in NA, in adrenal tissues adjacent to ACA (51±33), in ACC (53±78), and lower in ACA (11±11 fmol/mg DNA). Conversely, PR concentrations were high in NA and adrenal tissues adjacent to ACA, at 307±216 fmol/mg DNA, and were even higher in tumors – 726±706 fmol/mg DNA in ACA and 1154±1586 fmol/mg DNA in ACC – and in isolated PPNAD nodules. Binding study results in four tumors were compatible with binding to a steroid receptor. In patients with PPNAD, a strong positive immunohistochemical signal was associated with the sole isolated nodular regions. ERβ transcript levels were very high in all samples except those for two ACCs, whereas aromatase levels were low. PR and ERβ are clearly present in normal adrenal glands and adrenal tumors. Further studies may shed light on the possible pathogenic role of these receptors in adrenal proliferation.

Free access

Sudipan Karmakar, Estrella A Foster, Julia K Blackmore and Carolyn L Smith

Elevated expression of steroid receptor coactivator-3 (SRC-3), a member of the p160 family of nuclear receptor coactivators, has been implicated in tamoxifen resistance of breast tumors while the involvement of the two other members of this family, SRC-1 and SRC-2, is less well characterized. In this study, using small interfering RNA-based silencing, the role of each SRC coactivator in the growth of the LCC2 estrogen-independent and tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer cell line was evaluated. The loss of SRC-1, SRC-2, or SRC-3 did not significantly alter LCC2 proliferation or cell cycle distribution of 4-hydroxytamoxifen- versus vehicle-treated cells. However, depletion of SRC-2 and SRC-3, but not SRC-1, decreased basal cell proliferation and increased apoptosis. Cell cycle analyses further illustrated the divergent contributions of SRC-2 and SRC-3 with depletion of the former increasing the percentage of cells in the G0G1 and sub-G0G1 phases of cell cycle yet maintaining sensitivity to estradiol and ICI 182 780 antiestrogen, while SRC-3 depletion increased cells in the sub-G0G1 phase and ablated response to estrogen receptor α (ERα) ligands. Surprisingly, the effects of SRC coactivator depletion on ERα transcriptional activity, as measured by luciferase reporter gene, did not correspond to the observed effects on proliferation (e.g. SRC-1 knockdown increases ERα activity). Collectively, these data indicate that SRC control of basal and hormone-regulated proliferations is not solely mediated by ERα, and suggest that targeting growth inhibition by disrupting SRC-2 and SRC-3 function may be an effective approach to inhibit the growth of tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer.

Free access

Oliver Zierau, Jacintha O’Sullivan, Colm Morrissey, Dana McDonald, Winfried Wünsche, Martin R Schneider, Martin P Tenniswood and Günter Vollmer

Tamoxifen is the most widely prescribed anti-neoplastic drug for the treatment of both localized and metastatic breast cancer. It is also the prototype for a class of drugs that are referred to as selective estrogen receptor modifiers (SERMs), most of which have both estrogenic and anti-estrogenic activity in estrogen target tissues including the breast and endometrium. The underlying mechanisms of action of SERMs in the breast and endometrium that lead to profound differences in the tissue-specific effects of tamoxifen have not yet been elucidated.

We have compared the effects of tamoxifen and the pure anti-estrogen ICI 182,780 (Faslodex) in the RUCA-I hormone-responsive rat endometrial cell line in vitro and in vivo. In cell culture, RUCA-I cells responded to both estrogens and anti-estrogens, and the expression of clusterin and complement C3 mRNAs required the presence of estradiol and was repressed in the absence of estradiol or in the presence of the pure anti-estrogen ICI 182,780. Tamoxifen, on the other hand, induced both complement C3 and clusterin mRNA in the absence of estradiol and failed to repress their expression in the presence of estradiol. When grown as subcutaneous xenografts in syngeneic Da/Han rats for 5 weeks, the RUCA-I cells retained their sensitivity to estradiol, as demonstrated by significantly enhanced tumor growth in intact female rats compared with the growth in ovariectomized rats. But neither ICI 182,780 nor tamoxifen had a significant impact on tumor growth in cycling or ovariectomized animals. On the other hand, tamoxifen was potently estrogenic in metastatic lymph nodes, increasing the size of the lymph node tumors almost 6-fold over that seen in the intact cycling animals. In primary tumors, the expression of complement C3 mirrored that seen in vitro, although tamoxifen showed some agonist activity in ovariectomized animals. Tamoxifen also displayed marked agonist activity with respect to clusterin expression and enhanced clusterin mRNA levels and protein in both the primary tumors and lymph metastases in intact and ovariectomized animals.

Given the recent demonstration that over-expression of clusterin increases the metastatic potential of breast cancer cells, these data may provide a mechanistic explanation for the increased incidence of endometrial cancer in postmenopausal patients treated with tamoxifen.

Free access

W-D Han, Y-M Mu, X-C Lu, Z-M Xu, X-J Li, L Yu, H-J Song, M Li, J-M Lu, Y-L Zhao and C-Y Pan

LRP16 is a novel gene cloned from lymphocytic cells, and its function is not known. The expression level of LRP16 mRNA was up-regulated by estrogen in breast cancer MCF-7 cells based on the computed aided serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE) analysis. In this study, we investigate the effect of 17beta-estradiol (17beta-E(2)) on the expression of LRP16 mRNA and the effects of overexpression of LRP16 on the proliferation of cultured MCF-7 cells and the possible mechanisms involved. The expression level of LRP16 mRNA induced by 17beta-E(2) was determined by Northern blot analysis. LRP16 promoter-controlled luciferase expression vector (pGL3-S(0)) was co-transfected with various nuclear receptors, including estrogen receptor alpha and beta (ERalpha and ERbeta), glucocorticoid receptor alpha (GRalpha), androgen receptor (AR) and peroxisome-proliferator activated receptor gamma and alpha (PPARgamma and PPARgamma) into COS-7 cells, and the relative luciferase activity was measured using Dual-luciferase report assay systems. The effect of overexpression of LRP16 on MCF-7 proliferation was examined by the Trypan Blue exclusion method, and the cell cycle was analyzed by flow cytometry. The expression levels of cyclin E, p53 and p21(WAF1/CIP1) proteins were determined by Western blot analysis. The results showed (1) 17beta-E(2) induced a five- to eightfold increase in LRP16 mRNA levels in MCF-7 cells; (2) the relative luciferase activities in the COS-7 cells co-transfected by pGL3-S(0) and ERalpha or AR were 7.8-fold and 11-fold respectively of those in the control cells transfected by pGL3-S(0) alone; (3) overexpression of LRP16 stimulated MCF-7 cell proliferation, and the numbers of cells in the S-phase of the cell cycle in cells transfected with LRP16 increased about 10% compared with the control cells; and (4) cyclin E levels were much higher in cells with overexpression of LRP16 than in the control cells, while the expression levels of p53 and p21(WAF1/CIP1) were not different between the two groups of cells. From these results we concluded that estrogen up-regulates the expression level of LRP16 mRNA through activation of ERalpha and that overexpression of LRP16 promotes MCF-7 cell proliferation probably by increasing cyclin E.

Free access

Ramiro Dip, Sarah Lenz, Jean-Philippe Antignac, Bruno Le Bizec, Hans Gmuender and Hanspeter Naegeli

The nutritional intake of phytoestrogens seems to reduce the risk of breast cancer or other neoplastic diseases. However, these epidemiological findings remain controversial because low doses of phytoestrogens, achievable through soy-rich diets, stimulate the proliferation of estrogen-sensitive tumor cells. The question of whether such phytochemicals prevent cancer or rather pose additional health hazards prompted us to examine global gene expression programs induced by a typical soy product. After extraction from soymilk, phytoestrogens were deconjugated and processed through reverse- and normal-phase cartridges. The resulting mixture was used to treat human target cells that represent a common model system for mammary tumorigenesis. Analysis of mRNA on high-density microarrays revealed that soy phytoestrogens induce a genomic fingerprint that is indistinguishable from the transcriptional effects of the endogenous hormone 17β-estradiol. Highly congruent responses were also observed by comparing the physiologic estradiol with daidzein, coumestrol, enterolactone, or resveratrol, each representing distinct phytoestrogen structures. More diverging transcriptional profiles were generated when an inducible promoter was used to reconstitute the expression of estrogen receptor β (ERβ). Therefore, phytoestrogens appear to mitigate estrogenic signaling in the presence of both ER subtypes but, in late-stage cancer cells lacking ERβ, these phytochemicals contribute to a tumor-promoting transcriptional signature.

Free access

Robert X-D Song, Ping Fan, Wei Yue, Yucai Chen and Richard J Santen

Our recent studies have examined the role of various receptor complexes in the mediation of rapid, extranuclear effects of estradiol. This review describes 17β-estradiol (E2)-initiated extranuclear signaling pathways, which involve the insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF-1R) and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and result in the activation of several kinase cascades. The biologic results of these effects are the enhancement of cell proliferation and diminution of programmed cell death (apoptosis). Until recently, most studies assigned priority to the nuclear transcriptional actions of estrogen receptor α (ERα). Present investigative emphasis focuses on the additional importance of ERα residing in or near the plasma membrane. A small fraction of ERα is associated with the cell membrane and mediates the rapid effects of E2. Unlike classical growth factor receptors, such as IGF-1R and EGFR, ERα has no transmembrane and kinase domains and is known to initiate E2 rapid signals by forming protein/protein complexes with many signaling molecules. Our recent studies demonstrate that the IGF-1R is involved in tethering ERα to the plasma membrane, in activating the EGFR, and in the initiation of mitogen-activated protein kinase and phosphoinositide 3-kinase signaling. The formation of a multi-protein complex containing these receptors as well as adaptor proteins is a critical step in this process. A full understanding of the mechanisms underlying these relationships with the ultimate aim of abrogating specific steps, should lead to more targeted strategies for treatment of hormone-dependent breast cancer.

Free access

Joanna M Day, Paul A Foster, Helena J Tutill, Fabien Schmidlin, Christopher M Sharland, Jonathan D Hargrave, Nigel Vicker, Barry V L Potter, Michael J Reed and Atul Purohit

17β-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases (17β-HSDs) catalyse the 17-position reduction/oxidation of steroids. 17β-HSD type 3 (17β-HSD3) catalyses the reduction of the weakly androgenic androstenedione (adione) to testosterone, suggesting that specific inhibitors of 17β-HSD3 may have a role in the treatment of hormone-dependent prostate cancer and benign prostate hyperplasia. STX2171 is a novel selective non-steroidal 17β-HSD3 inhibitor with an IC50 of ∼200 nM in a whole-cell assay. It inhibits adione-stimulated proliferation of 17β-HSD3-expressing androgen receptor-positive LNCaP(HSD3) prostate cancer cells in vitro. An androgen-stimulated LNCaP(HSD3) xenograft proof-of-concept model was developed to study the efficacies of STX2171 and a more established 17β-HSD3 inhibitor, STX1383 (SCH-451659, Schering-Plough), in vivo. Castrated male MF-1 mice were inoculated s.c. with 1×107 cells 24 h after an initial daily dose of testosterone propionate (TP) or vehicle. After 4 weeks, tumours had not developed in vehicle-dosed mice, but were present in 50% of those mice given TP. One week after switching the stimulus to adione, mice were dosed additionally with the vehicle or inhibitor for a further 4 weeks. Both TP and adione efficiently stimulated tumour growth and increased plasma testosterone levels; however, in the presence of either 17β-HSD3 inhibitor, adione-dependent tumour growth was significantly inhibited and plasma testosterone levels reduced. Mouse body weights were unaffected. Both inhibitors also significantly lowered plasma testosterone levels in intact mice. In conclusion, STX2171 and STX1383 significantly lower plasma testosterone levels and inhibit androgen-dependent tumour growth in vivo, indicating that 17β-HSD3 inhibitors may have application in the treatment of hormone-dependent prostate cancer.

Free access

V Craig Jordan

The successful use of high-dose synthetic estrogens to treat postmenopausal metastatic breast cancer is the first effective ‘chemical therapy’ proven in clinical trial to treat any cancer. This review documents the clinical use of estrogen for breast cancer treatment or estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) in postmenopausal hysterectomized women, which can either result in breast cancer cell growth or breast cancer regression. This has remained a paradox since the 1950s until the discovery of the new biology of estrogen-induced apoptosis at the end of the 20th century. The key to triggering apoptosis with estrogen is the selection of breast cancer cell populations that are resistant to long-term estrogen deprivation. However, estrogen-independent growth occurs through trial and error. At the cellular level, estrogen-induced apoptosis is dependent upon the presence of the estrogen receptor (ER), which can be blocked by nonsteroidal or steroidal antiestrogens. The shape of an estrogenic ligand programs the conformation of the ER complex, which, in turn, can modulate estrogen-induced apoptosis: class I planar estrogens (e.g., estradiol) trigger apoptosis after 24 h, whereas class II angular estrogens (e.g., bisphenol triphenylethylene) delay the process until after 72 h. This contrasts with paclitaxel, which causes G2 blockade with immediate apoptosis. The process is complete within 24 h. Estrogen-induced apoptosis is modulated by glucocorticoids and cSrc inhibitors, but the target mechanism for estrogen action is genomic and not through a nongenomic pathway. The process is stepwise through the creation of endoplasmic reticulum stress and inflammatory responses, which then initiate an unfolded protein response. This, in turn, initiates apoptosis through the intrinsic pathway (mitochondrial) with the subsequent recruitment of the extrinsic pathway (death receptor) to complete the process. The symmetry of the clinical and laboratory studies now permits the creation of rules for the future clinical application of ERT or phytoestrogen supplements: a 5-year gap is necessary after menopause to permit the selection of estrogen-deprived breast cancer cell populations to cause them to become vulnerable to apoptotic cell death. Earlier treatment with estrogen around menopause encourages growth of ER-positive tumor cells, as the cells are still dependent on estrogen to maintain replication within the expanding population. An awareness of the evidence that the molecular events associated with estrogen-induced apoptosis can be orchestrated in the laboratory in estrogen-deprived breast cancers now supports the clinical findings regarding the treatment of metastatic breast cancer following estrogen deprivation, decreases in mortality following long-term antihormonal adjuvant therapy, and the results of treatment with ERT and ERT plus progestin in the Women's Health Initiative for women over the age of 60. Principles have emerged for understanding and applying physiological estrogen therapy appropriately by targeting the correct patient populations.