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Steroids. 2012 Aug;77(10):910-7. doi: 10.1016/j.steroids.2012.02.019. Epub 2012 Mar 5.

Susceptibility of estrogen receptor rapid responses to xenoestrogens: Physiological outcomes.

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Department of Biology, University Roma TRE, viale G. Marconi, 446, I-00146 Rome, Italy.


17β-Estradiol (E2) binding induces rapid modification in the conformation of its cognate receptors (i.e., ERα and ERβ). These allosteric changes allow the association of ERs with cell specific transcriptional cofactors, thus determining cellular contexts specific variations in gene expression. In addition, E2-ER complexes could also interact with membrane and cytosolic signal molecules triggering extra-nuclear signalling pathways. The synergy between these mechanisms is necessary for E2-induced pleiotropic actions in target tissues. Besides E2, the ER ligand binding domains can accommodate many other natural and synthetic ligands. Several of these compounds act as agonist or antagonist of ER transcriptional activity due to their ability to modify the interactions between ERs and transcriptional co-regulators. However, the ability of natural or manmade ER ligands to affect the extra-nuclear interactions of the ERs has been rarely evaluated. Here, the ability of two diet-derived flavonoids (i.e., naringenin and quercetin) and of the synthetic food-contaminant bisphenol A to modulate specifically ER extra-nuclear signalling pathways will be reported. All the tested compounds bind to both ER subtypes even if lesser than E2 activating divergent signal transduction pathways. In fact, in the presence of ERα, both naringenin and quercetin decouple ERα activities by specifically interfering with ERα membrane initiating signals. On the other hand, bisphenol A, but not flavonoids, maintains ERβ at the membrane thus impairing the activation of the downstream kinases. As a whole, extra-nuclear ER signals are highly susceptible to different ligands that, by unbalancing E2-induced cell functions drive cells to different functional endpoints.

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