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Cancers (Basel). 2018 Oct 5;10(10). pii: E371. doi: 10.3390/cancers10100371.

Unliganded Progesterone Receptor Governs Estrogen Receptor Gene Expression by Regulating DNA Methylation in Breast Cancer Cells.

Author information

1
Gene Regulation, Stem Cells and Cancer Program, Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), The Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST), Doctor Aiguader 88, 08003 Barcelona, Spain. gverde@uic.es.
2
Gene Regulation, Stem Cells and Cancer Program, Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), The Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST), Doctor Aiguader 88, 08003 Barcelona, Spain. lara.llobet@crg.eu.
3
Gene Regulation, Stem Cells and Cancer Program, Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), The Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST), Doctor Aiguader 88, 08003 Barcelona, Spain. roni.wright@crg.eu.
4
Gene Regulation, Stem Cells and Cancer Program, Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), The Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST), Doctor Aiguader 88, 08003 Barcelona, Spain. javier.quilez@crg.eu.
5
Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology, 08035 Barcelona, Spain. speiro@vhio.net.
6
Gene Regulation, Stem Cells and Cancer Program, Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), The Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST), Doctor Aiguader 88, 08003 Barcelona, Spain. francois.ledily@crg.eu.
7
Gene Regulation, Stem Cells and Cancer Program, Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), The Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST), Doctor Aiguader 88, 08003 Barcelona, Spain. miguel.beato@crg.eu.
8
Department of Life Science, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, 08003 Barcelona, Spain. miguel.beato@crg.eu.

Abstract

Breast cancer prognosis and response to endocrine therapy strongly depends on the expression of the estrogen and progesterone receptors (ER and PR, respectively). Although much is known about ERα gene (ESR1) regulation after hormonal stimulation, how it is regulated in hormone-free condition is not fully understood. We used ER-/PR-positive breast cancer cells to investigate the role of PR in ESR1 regulation in the absence of hormones. We show that PR binds to the low-methylated ESR1 promoter and maintains both gene expression and DNA methylation of the ESR1 locus in hormone-deprived breast cancer cells. Depletion of PR reduces ESR1 expression, with a concomitant increase in gene promoter methylation. The high amount of methylation in the ESR1 promoter of PR-depleted cells persists after the stable re-expression of PR and inhibits PR binding to this genomic region. As a consequence, the rescue of PR expression in PR-depleted cells is insufficient to restore ESR1 expression. Consistently, DNA methylation impedes PR binding to consensus progesterone responsive elements. These findings contribute to understanding the complex crosstalk between PR and ER and suggest that the analysis of ESR1 promoter methylation in breast cancer cells can help to design more appropriate targeted therapies for breast cancer patients.

KEYWORDS:

DNA methylation; breast cancer; endocrine therapy; estrogen receptor; gene expression; progesterone receptor

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