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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2011 Nov;339(2):597-606. doi: 10.1124/jpet.111.185173. Epub 2011 Aug 9.

Regulation of estrogen sulfotransferase expression by confluence of MCF10A breast epithelial cells: role of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor.

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Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Wayne State University, 259 Mack Ave., Detroit, MI 48201, USA.


Estrogen sulfotransferase (SULT1E1) catalyzes the sulfonation of estrogens, which limits estrogen mitogenicity. We recently reported that SULT1E1 expression is low in preconfluent MCF10A human breast epithelial cells but increases when the cells become confluent. Pulse-chase labeling experiments with 5-bromouridine demonstrated that the confluence-mediated increase in SULT1E1 expression was due to increased mRNA synthesis. Because aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) activation has been shown to suppress SULT1E1 expression and loss of cell-cell contact has been shown to activate the AhR in other cell types, we tested whether the confluence-associated changes in SULT1E1 expression were mediated by the AhR. Relative to confluent MCF10A cells, preconfluent cells had higher levels of CYP1A1 mRNA and greater activation of an AhR-responsive luciferase reporter, demonstrating that the AhR was active in the preconfluent cells. AhR and aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator mRNA and protein levels were also higher in preconfluent than in confluent cultures. Treatment of preconfluent cells with the AhR antagonist, 3'-methoxy-4'-nitroflavone (MNF), or AhR knockdown significantly increased SULT1E1 expression. MCF10A cells stably transfected with a luciferase reporter containing ∼7 kilobases of the SULT1E1 5'-flanking region showed both MNF- and confluence-inducible luciferase expression. Preconfluent cells transiently transfected with the reporter showed both MNF treatment- and AhR knockdown-mediated luciferase induction, but mutation of a computationally predicted dioxin response element (DRE) at nucleotide (nt) -3476 did not attenuate these effects. These results demonstrate that SULT1E1 expression in MCF10A cells is transcriptionally regulated by confluence through a suppressive action of the AhR, which is not mediated through a DRE at nt -3476.

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