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Endocrinology. 2013 Jun;154(6):2222-33. doi: 10.1210/en.2012-2059. Epub 2013 Apr 11.

The AF-1 activation function of estrogen receptor α is necessary and sufficient for uterine epithelial cell proliferation in vivo.

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  • 1INSERM U1048, Institut des Maladies Métaboliques et Cardiovasculaires, BP 84225, 31432 Toulouse Cedex 4, France.


Estrogen receptor-α (ERα) regulates gene transcription through the 2 activation functions (AFs) AF-1 and AF-2. The crucial role of ERαAF-2 was previously demonstrated for endometrial proliferative action of 17β-estradiol (E2). Here, we investigated the role of ERαAF-1 in the regulation of gene transcription and cell proliferation in the uterus. We show that acute treatment with E2 or tamoxifen, which selectively activates ERαAF-1, similarly regulate the expression of a uterine set of estrogen-dependent genes as well as epithelial cell proliferation in the uterus of wild-type mice. These effects were abrogated in mice lacking ERαAF-1 (ERαAF-1(0)). Four weeks of E2 treatment led to uterine hypertrophy and sustained luminal epithelial and stromal cell proliferation in wild-type mice, but not in ERαAF-1(0) mice. However, ERαAF-1(0) mice still presented a moderate uterine hypertrophy essentially due to a stromal edema, potentially due to the persistence of Vegf-a induction. Epithelial apoptosis is largely decreased in these ERαAF-1(0) uteri, and response to progesterone is also altered. Finally, E2-induced proliferation of an ERα-positive epithelial cancer cell line was also inhibited by overexpression of an inducible ERα isoform lacking AF-1. Altogether, these data highlight the crucial role of ERαAF-1 in the E2-induced proliferative response in vitro and in vivo. Because ERαAF-1 was previously reported to be dispensable for several E2 extrareproductive protective effects, an optimal ERα modulation could be obtained using molecules activating ERα with a minimal ERαAF-1 action.

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