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Cancer Res. 2001 Jan 15;61(2):632-40.

Expression of estrogen receptor (ER) subtypes and ERbeta isoforms in colon cancer.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville 32610, USA.


Colon cancer incidence and mortality rates are lower in females compared with males, and numerous epidemiological studies suggest that estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) reduces cancer risk in postmenopausal women. Two estrogen receptor (ER) subtypes, ERalpha and ERbeta, mediate genomic effects in target cells. The aim of this study was to determine the relative mRNA expression levels for ER subtypes and ERbeta isoforms in colon tumors, normal colonic mucosa, and colon cancer cell lines. ERalpha and ERbeta isoform mRNA levels were investigated in paired samples of colon tumors and normal mucosa from 26 patients using comparative reverse transcription-PCR and then Southern analyses. Constitutive steroid hormone receptor mRNA levels were determined for five colon adenocarcinoma cell lines using reverse transcription-PCR, and ERbeta levels were further studied in Caco-2 cells using Northern and Western analyses. ERbeta mRNA steady-state levels (relative to glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase mRNA) were significantly decreased in colon tumors compared with normal mucosa in female patients. ERbeta1 and ERbeta2 isoform mRNA levels were significantly decreased in tumors from female patients, and ERbeta1 mRNA levels were also significantly lower in tumors from female patients compared with tumors from males. ERalpha mRNA levels were much lower than ERbeta levels and were similar between normal mucosa and tumor samples in both genders. ERbeta mRNA was detected in Caco-2, T84, and SW1116 cell lines and all lines were essentially negative for ERalpha mRNA. Caco-2 cells coexpressed ERbeta1, ERbeta2, and ERbeta5 mRNA, though a single protein transcript was observed. ERbeta protein was detected in normal colonic superficial epithelium, vascular smooth muscle and endothelium, and enteric neurons by immunohistochemistry. These data show that ERbeta is the predominant ER subtype in the human colon and that decreased levels of ERbeta1 and ERbeta2 mRNA are associated with colonic tumorigenesis in females. This information suggests that activation of ERbeta-mediated processes in the superficial colonic epithelium may have a role in the preventive effects observed for female gender and ERT usage.

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