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Cancer Res. 2000 Aug 1;60(15):4130-8.

Long-term hydroxytamoxifen treatment of an MCF-7-derived breast cancer cell line irreversibly inhibits the expression of estrogenic genes through chromatin remodeling.

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Unité 439, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Montpellier, France.


Antiestrogen resistance is frequently observed in patients after longterm treatment with tamoxifen, a nonsteroidal antiestrogen widely used for endocrine therapy of breast cancer. In vitro studies in resistant cells showed that the expression of natural estrogen-responsive genes is frequently altered. Using MVLN cells, an MCF-7-derived cell model, we previously demonstrated that 4-hydroxytamoxifen (OHT) treatment irreversibly inactivated an estrogen-regulated chimeric luciferase response by a direct effect of the drug and not through a cell selection process (E. Badia et al., Cancer Res., 54: 5860-5866, 1994). In the present study, we present tamoxifen-resistant but still estrogen-dependent clones isolated after long-term treatment of MVLN cells with OHT and show that progesterone receptor (PR) expression was irreversibly decreased in some of these clones, whereas the PRA:PRB ratio of residual PR remained unchanged. The irreversible inactivation of both chimeric luciferase gene and PR gene expression was associated with the disappearance of DNase 1-hypersensitive sites. In the case of the chimeric gene, at least one of these sites was close to the estrogen responsive element. Genomic sequencing analysis of a clone with very low PR content did not reveal any methylation on CpG dinucleotides or any mutation in the PR gene promoter region. In all of the resistant clones tested and independently of their PR content, estrogen receptor expression was only lowered by half and remained functional, whereas pS2 expression was not modified. We also observed that the residual luciferase activity level (1-2%) of the MVLN clones, the luciferase expression of which had been irreversibly inactivated, was raised 4-fold by trichostatin A treatment. We conclude that long-term OHT treatment may modify the chromatin structure and thus could contribute to differentially silencing natural target genes.

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