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J Pathol. 2003 Oct;201(2):213-20.

Reduced expression of oestrogen receptor beta in invasive breast cancer and its re-expression using DNA methyl transferase inhibitors in a cell line model.

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  • 1Molecular Medicine Unit, University of Leeds, UK.


To gain insights into the possible role of oestrogen receptor (ER) beta in breast carcinogenesis, immunohistochemical analysis of ER beta was performed on 512 breast specimens encompassing normal (n = 138), pure ductal carcinoma in situ (n = 16), invasive cancers (n = 319), lymph node metastases (n = 31), and recurrences (n = 8). Real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to investigate the methylation status of the ER beta gene in the ER beta negative breast cancer cell lines SkBr3 and MDA-MB-435. A gradual reduction in, but not a complete loss of, ER beta expression was observed during the transition from normal and pre-invasive lesions to invasive cancers, where ER beta was lost in 21% of cases. This was more pronounced in invasive ductal than in lobular carcinomas, a significantly higher proportion of which were ER beta-positive (74% compared with 91%, respectively, p = 0.0004). Examination of paired primary cancers with their axillary lymph node metastases showed that if ER beta was present in the primary tumour, it persisted in the metastasis. Treatment of ER beta-negative cell lines with DNA methyl transferase inhibitors restored ER beta expression, providing experimental evidence that silencing of ER beta in breast carcinomas could be due to promoter hypermethylation. These results suggest that loss of ER beta expression is one of the hallmarks of breast carcinogenesis and that it may be a reversible process involving methylation.

Copyright 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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