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Environ Health Perspect. 2002 Dec;110(12):1239-45.

DDT and its metabolites alter gene expression in human uterine cell lines through estrogen receptor-independent mechanisms.

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Molecular and Cellular Biology Program, Tulane University Health Science Center, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.


Endocrine-disrupting organochlorines, such as the pesticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), bind to and activate estrogen receptors (ERs), thereby eliciting estrogen-like effects. Although ERs function predominantly through activation of transcription via estrogen-responsive elements, both ERs, alpha and ss, can interact with various transcription factors such as activator protein-1 (AP-1). Additionally, estrogens may regulate early signaling events, suggesting that the biological effects of environmental estrogens may not be mediated through classic ER (alpha and ss) activity alone. We hypothesized that known environmental estrogens, such as DDT and its metabolites, activate AP-1-mediated gene transactivation through both ER-dependent and ER-independent means. Using two Ishikawa human endometrial adenocarcinoma cell line variants that we confirmed to be estrogen responsive [Ishikawa(+)] and estrogen unresponsive [Ishikawa(-)], we generated stably transfected AP-1 luciferase cell lines to identify the role of an estrogen-responsive mechanism in AP-1-mediated gene expression by various stimuli. Our results demonstrate that DDT and dichlorodiphenyldichloroethane (DDD) were the most potent activators of AP-1 activity; 2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl) acetic acid failed to activate. Although stimulated in both Ishikawa(+) and Ishikawa(-) cells by DDT and its congeners, AP-1 activation was more pronounced in the estrogen-unresponsive Ishikawa(-) cells. In addition, DDT, DDD, and dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE) could also stimulate AP-1 activity in the estrogen-unresponsive human embryonic kidney 293 cells using a different promoter context. Thus, our data demonstrate that DDT and its metabolites activate the AP-1 transcription factor independent of ER (alpha or ss) status.

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