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PLoS One. 2011;6(6):e20898. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020898. Epub 2011 Jun 10.

Differential estrogen-regulation of CXCL12 chemokine receptors, CXCR4 and CXCR7, contributes to the growth effect of estrogens in breast cancer cells.

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  • 1UMR CNRS 6026, Molecular and Cellular Interactions, IRSET, University of Rennes 1, IFR 140, Rennes, France.


CXCR4 and CXCR7 are the two receptors for the chemokine CXCL12, a key mediator of the growth effect of estrogens (E2) in estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancers. In this study we examined E2-regulation of the CXCL12 axis components and their involvement in the growth of breast cancer cells. CXCR4 and CXCR7 were differentially regulated by E2 which enhanced the expression of both CXCL12 and CXCR4 but repressed the expression of CXCR7. Formaldehyde-associated isolation of regulatory elements (FAIRE) revealed that E2-mediated transcriptional regulation of these genes is linked to the control of the compaction state of chromatin at their promoters. This effect could be accomplished via several distal ER-binding sites in the regions surrounding these genes, all of which are located 20-250 kb from the transcription start site. Furthermore, individual down-regulation of CXCL12, CXCR4 or CXCR7 expression as well as the inhibition of their activity significantly decreases the rate of basal cell growth. In contrast, E2-induced cell growth was differentially affected. Unlike CXCR7, the inhibition of the expression or activity of either CXCL12 or CXCR4 significantly blunted the E2-mediated stimulation of cellular growth. Besides, CXCR7 over-expression increased the basal MCF-7 cell growth rate and decreased the growth effect of E2. These findings indicate that E2 regulation of the CXCL12 signaling axis is important for the E2-mediated growth effect of breast cancer cells. These data also provide support for distinct biological functions of CXCR4 and CXCR7 and suggest that targeting CXCR4 and/or CXCR7 would have distinct molecular effects on ER-positive breast tumors.

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