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EMBO J. 1998 Apr 1;17(7):2008-18.

Activation of the Src/p21ras/Erk pathway by progesterone receptor via cross-talk with estrogen receptor.

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Istituto di Patologia Generale e Oncologia, Facoltà di Medicina e Chirurgia, II Università di Napoli, Largo S.Aniello a Caponapoli, 2, 80138 Napoli, Italy.


The molecular mechanisms by which ovarian hormones stimulate growth of breast tumors are unclear. It has been reported previously that estrogens activate the signal-transducing Src/p21(ras)/Erk pathway in human breast cancer cells via an interaction of estrogen receptor (ER) with c-Src. We now show that progestins stimulate human breast cancer T47D cell proliferation and induce a similar rapid and transient activation of the pathway which, surprisingly, is blocked not only by anti-progestins but also by anti-estrogens. In Cos-7 cells transfected with the B isoform of progesterone receptor (PRB), progestin activation of the MAP kinase pathway depends on co-transfection of ER. A transcriptionally inactive PRB mutant also activates the signaling pathway, demonstrating that this activity is independent of transcriptional effects. PRB does not interact with c-Src but associates via the N-terminal 168 amino acids with ER. This association is required for the signaling pathway activation by progestins. We propose that ER transmits to the Src/p21(ras)/Erk pathway signals received from the agonist-activated PRB. These findings reveal a hitherto unrecognized cross-talk between ovarian hormones which could be crucial for their growth-promoting effects on cancer cells.

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