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J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2000 Nov 30;74(5):279-85.

Molecular mechanisms of estrogen action: selective ligands and receptor pharmacology.

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Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Illinois and College of Medicine, 524 Burrill Hall, 407 S. Goodwin Avenue, 61801-3704, Urbana, IL, USA.


Estrogens exert profound effects on the physiology of diverse target cells and these effects appear to be mediated by two estrogen receptor (ER) subtypes, ERalpha and ERbeta. We have investigated how ER ligands, ranging from pure agonists to antagonists, interact with ERalpha and ERbeta, and regulate their transcriptional activity on different genes. Mutational mapping-structure activity studies indicate that different residues of the ER ligand binding domain are involved in the recognition of structurally distinct estrogens and antiestrogens. We have identified from ligands of diverse structure, several particularly interesting ones that are high potency selective agonists via ERalpha and others that are full agonists through ERalpha while being full antagonists through ERbeta. Antiestrogens such as hydroxytamoxifen, which are mixed agonist/antagonists through ERalpha, are pure antagonists through ERbeta at estrogen response element-containing gene sites. Studies with ERalpha/beta chimeric proteins reveal that tamoxifen agonism requires the activation function 1 region of ERalpha. Through two-hybrid assays, we have isolated an ER-specific coregulator that potentiates antiestrogen antagonist effectiveness and represses ER transcriptional activity. We have also focused on understanding the distinct pharmacologies of antiestrogen- and estrogen-regulated genes. Although antiestrogens are thought to largely act by antagonizing the actions of estrogens, we have found among several new ER-regulated genes, quinone reductase (QR), a detoxifying phase II antioxidant enzyme, that has its activity up-regulated by antiestrogens in an ER-dependent manner in breast cancer cells. This response is antagonized by estrogens, thus showing 'reversed pharmacology'. Increased QR activity by antiestrogens requires a functional ER (ERalpha or ERbeta) and is, interestingly, mediated via the electrophile response element in the QR gene 5' regulatory region. The up-regulation of QR may contribute to the beneficial effects of tamoxifen, raloxifene, and other antiestrogens in breast cancer prevention and treatment. Estrogens rapidly up-regulate expression of several genes associated with cell cytoarchitectural changes including NHE-RF, the sodium hydrogen exchanger regulatory factor, also known as EBP50. NHE-RF/EBP50 is enriched in microvilli, and may serve as a scaffold adaptor protein in regulating early changes in cell architecture and signal transduction events induced by estrogen. Analyses of the regulatory regions of these primary response genes, and the antioxidant and other signaling pathways involved, are providing considerable insight into the mechanisms by which ligands, that function as selective estrogen receptor modulators or SERMs, exert their marked effects on the activities and properties of target cells. The intriguing biology of estrogens in its diverse target cells is thus determined by the structure of the ligand, the ER subtype involved, the nature of the hormone-responsive gene promoter, and the character and balance of coactivators and corepressors that modulate the cellular response to the ER-ligand complex. The continuing development of ligands that function as selective estrogens or antiestrogens for ERalpha or ERbeta should allow optimized tissue selectivity of these agents for menopausal hormone replacement therapy and the treatment and prevention of breast cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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