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Environ Health Perspect. 2000 Jul;108(7):621-9.

Estrogenic activity assessment of environmental chemicals using in vitro assays: identification of two new estrogenic compounds.

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Institute of Animal Biology, University of Lausanne, Switzerland.


Environmental chemicals with estrogenic activities have been suggested to be associated with deleterious effects in animals and humans. To characterize estrogenic chemicals and their mechanisms of action, we established in vitro and cell culture assays that detect human estrogen receptor [alpha] (hER[alpha])-mediated estrogenicity. First, we assayed chemicals to determine their ability to modulate direct interaction between the hER[alpha] and the steroid receptor coactivator-1 (SRC-1) and in a competition binding assay to displace 17ss-estradiol (E(2)). Second, we tested the chemicals for estrogen-associated transcriptional activity in the yeast estrogen screen and in the estrogen-responsive MCF-7 human breast cancer cell line. The chemicals investigated in this study were o,p'-DDT (racemic mixture and enantiomers), nonylphenol mixture (NPm), and two poorly analyzed compounds in the environment, namely, tris-4-(chlorophenyl)methane (Tris-H) and tris-4-(chlorophenyl)methanol (Tris-OH). In both yeast and MCF-7 cells, we determined estrogenic activity via the estrogen receptor (ER) for o,p'-DDT, NPm, and for the very first time, Tris-H and Tris-OH. However, unlike estrogens, none of these xenobiotics seemed to be able to induce ER/SRC-1 interactions, most likely because the conformation of the activated receptor would not allow direct contacts with this coactivator. However, these compounds were able to inhibit [(3)H]-E(2) binding to hER, which reveals a direct interaction with the receptor. In conclusion, the test compounds are estrogen mimics, but their molecular mechanism of action appears to be different from that of the natural hormone as revealed by the receptor/coactivator interaction analysis.

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