Critical determinants of estrogen receptor -mediated agonist activity

Leslie Carol Hodges, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Exogenous ligands that bind to the estrogen receptor (ER) exhibit unique pharmacologies distinct from that observed with the endogenous hormone, 17β-estradiol (ED. Differential activity among ER ligands has been observed at the level of receptor binding, promoter interaction and transcriptional activation. Furthermore, xenoestrogens can display tissue-specific agonist activity on the cellular level, functioning as an agonist in one tissue and as an antagonist in another. That the same ligand, functioning through the same receptor, can produce differing agonist responses on the cellular level indicates that there are tissue-specific determinants of agonist activity. In these studies critical molecular determinants of agonist activity were characterized for several cell types. In the normal and neoplastic myometrium a proliferative response was dependent upon activation of AF2 of the ER, functioning as a determinant of agonism in this cell type. Progesterone receptor (PR) ligands transdominantly suppressed ER-mediated transcription and proliferation in uterine leiomyoma cells, indicating that ER/PR cross-talk can modulate agonist activity in a myometrial cell background. In the breast, the agonist response to ER ligands was investigated by employing a functional genomics approach to generate gene expression profiles. Treatment of breast cancer cells with the selective estrogen receptor modulator tamoxifen largely recapitulated the expression profile induced by treatment with the agonist E2, despite the well-characterized antiproliferative effects produced by tamoxifen in this cell type. While the expression of many genes involved in regulating cell cycle progression, including fos, myc, cdc25a, stk15 and cyclin A, were induced by both E2 and tamoxifen in breast cells, treatment with the agonist E2 specifically induced the expression of cyclin D1, fra-1 , and uracil DNA glycosylase. These results suggest that the inability of tamoxifen to transactivate expression of only a few key genes, functioning as cellular gatekeepers, prevent tamoxifen-treated breast cells from entering the cell cycle. Thus, the expression of these agonist-specific marker genes is a potential determinant of agonist activity at the cellular level in the breast. Collectively, studies in the breast and uterine myometrium have identified several mechanisms whereby ER ligands modulate ER-mediated signaling and provide insights into the biology of tissue-specific agonist activity in hormone-responsive tissues.

Subject Area

Molecular biology|Oncology|Anatomy & physiology|Animals

Recommended Citation

Hodges, Leslie Carol, "Critical determinants of estrogen receptor -mediated agonist activity" (2002). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3046056.