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Br J Pharmacol. 1980;71(1):83-91.

Evidence for the metabolic activation of non-steroidal antioestrogens: a study of structure-activity relationships.


1 The oestrogenic and antioestrogenic activities of tamoxifen and monohydroxytamoxifen have been compared with those of para-methoxy, -methyl, -fluoro, and -chloro tamoxifen in the 3 day immature rat uterine weight test.2 The oestrogenic activity of mestranol, a steroid with low oestrogen receptor binding affinity which is believed to be demethylated to ethinyl oestradiol before exerting its effects, was less potent than ethinyl oestradiol when assayed in the 3 day immature rat uterine weight test. Similarly, para-methoxytamoxifen was less active than monohydroxytamoxifen in oestrogenic and antioestrogenic tests.3 The introduction of a para-methoxy group into tamoxifen did not affect oestrogenic or antioestrogenic activity.4 All the derivatives of tamoxifen were partial oestrogen agonists when compared with oestradiol benzoate in the 3 d immature rat uterine weight test. All test compounds inhibited the uterotrophic activity of oestradiol benzoate (0.16 mug daily) in a dose-related manner. The order of potency was: monohydroxytamoxifen > tamoxifen identical with methoxytamoxifen > p-fluoro identical with p-chloro identical with p-methyltamoxifen.5 Tamoxifen was approximately equiactive with its p-methyl, p-fluoro and p-chloro derivatives in the ability to inhibit [(3)H]-oestradiol binding to rat uterine oestrogen receptors in vitro.6 Tamoxifen was approximately equiactive with its p-methyl and p-fluoro derivatives in the ability to inhibit vaginal cornification of ovariectomized rats upon intravaginal administration with oestradiol (3.2 ng total dose).7 Since tamoxifen in vivo was more active as a partial oestrogen agonist and antagonist than the para substituted fluoro, chloro and methyl derivatives that cannot undergo metabolic hydroxylation to monohydroxytamoxifen, whereas the antioestrogenic activity of the compounds upon local application in the vaginal cornification test was equivalent as was their ability to inhibit [(3)H]-oestradiol-17beta binding to the oestrogen receptor in vitro, it is suggested that at low doses; i.e. over the range of the partial agonist dose-response curve, the biological activity of tamoxifen is the net result of the activities of the parent compound and its metabolites.8 The results demonstrate that metabolic activation of non-steroidal antioestrogens is only an advantage and not a requirement for antioestrogenic activity.

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