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Oncol Rep. 2013 May;29(5):2058-64. doi: 10.3892/or.2013.2314. Epub 2013 Feb 28.

Melatonin modulates aromatase activity and expression in endothelial cells.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, School of Medicine, University of Cantabria, 39011 Santander, Spain.


Melatonin is known to suppress the development of endocrine-responsive breast cancers by interacting with the estrogen signaling pathways. Paracrine interactions between malignant epithelial cells and proximal stromal cells are responsible for local estrogen biosynthesis. In human breast cancer cells and peritumoral adipose tissue, melatonin downregulates aromatase, which transforms androgens into estrogens. The presence of aromatase on endothelial cells indicates that endothelial cells may contribute to tumor growth by producing estrogens. Since human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) express both aromatase and melatonin receptors, the aim of the present study was to evaluate the ability of melatonin to regulate the activity and expression of aromatase on endothelial cells, thus, modulating local estrogen biosynthesis. In the present study, we demonstrated that melatonin inhibits the growth of HUVECs and reduces the local biosynthesis of estrogens through the downregulation of aromatase. These results are supported by three lines of evidence. Firstly, 1 mM of melatonin counteracted the testosterone-induced cell proliferation of HUVECs, which is dependent on the local biosynthesis of estrogens from testosterone by the aromatase activity of the cells. Secondly, we found that 1 mM of melatonin reduced the aromatase activity of HUVECs. Finally, by real‑time RT-PCR, we demonstrated that melatonin significantly downregulated the expression of aromatase as well as its endothelial-specific aromatase promoter region I.7. We conclude that melatonin inhibits aromatase activity and expression in HUVECs by regulating gene expression of specific aromatase promoter regions, thereby reducing the local production of estrogens.

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