Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Cancer Biology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Khandan Keyomarsi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

George Stancel, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Powel Brown, M.D., Ph.D.

Committee Member

Hesham Amin, M.D.

Committee Member

Janet Price, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sadhan Majumder, Ph.D.


Previous studies have shown that Estrogen Receptor alpha (ERα) is an important indicator for diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of breast cancers. However, the question remains as to the role of ERα in the cell in the presence versus absence of 17-β estradiol In this dissertation the role of ERα in both its unliganded and liganded state, with respect to the cell cycle will be explored. The cell line models used in this project are ER-positive MCF-7 cells with and without siRNA to ERα and ER-positive MDA-MB-231 cells that have been engineered to express ERα. Cells were synchronized and the cell cycle progression was monitored by flow cytometric analysis. Using these methods, two specific questions were addressed: Does ERα modulate the cell cycle differently under liganded versus unliganded conditions? And, does the presence of ERα regulate cell cycle phase transitions?

The results show for the first time that ERα is cell cycle regulated and modulates the progression of cells through S and G2/M phases of the cell cycle. Ligand bound ERα increases progression through S and G2/M phases, whereas unliganded ERα acts as an inhibitor of cell cycle progression. To further investigate the cell cycle regulated effects of liganded ERα, a luciferase assay was performed and showed that the transcription of target genes such as Progestrone Receptor (PgR) and Trefoil protein (pS2) increased duing S and G2/M phases when ERα is bound to ligand. Additionally, complex formation between cyclin B and ER α was shown by immunoprecipitation and led to the discovery that anaphase promoting complex (APC) is the E3 ligase for both cyclin B and ERα at the termination of M phase.

Our findings suggest that unliganded ERα has an inhibitory effect on the progression of the cell cycle. Therefore, it is reasonable to speculate that the combination of drugs that lower estrogen level (such as aromatase inhibitors) and preserves ERα from degradation would provide better outcome for breast cancer treatment. We have shown that APC functions as the E3 ligase for ERα and thus might provide a target to design a specific inhibitor of ERα degradation.


Estrogen Receptor alpha, Cell cycle, Proliferation, Breast Cancer