Regulation of estrogen receptor-alpha gene expression by epidermal growth factor


    The role of epidermal growth factor (EGF) in the regulation of estrogen receptor-alpha (ER-alpha) gene expression in the human breast cancer cell line MCF-7 was investigated. Treatment of cells with 0.4 ng/ml EGF resulted in an approximately 60% decrease in ER-alpha protein concentration by 6 h and the amount of receptor remained suppressed for 24 h. Ligand binding assays demonstrated that the decrease in ER-alpha protein corresponded to a similar decrease (approximately 50%) in estradiol binding sites. Although EGF treatment resulted in a decrease in the number of binding sites, it had no effect on the binding affinity of ER-alpha. The dissociation constant of the estradiol-ER-alpha complex in the presence or absence of EGF was the same (K(d)=2.3x10(-)(10) M in control cells versus K(d)=1.98x10(-)(10) M in EGF-treated cells). The decrease in ER-alpha protein concentration paralleled a decrease in the steady-state amount of ER-alpha mRNA. By 9 h there was an approximately 60% decrease in ER-alpha mRNA. The amount of ER-alpha mRNA remained suppressed for 48 h. Transcription run-on experiments demonstrated that there was a decrease of approximately 70% in ER-alpha gene transcription upon EGF treatment, suggesting that the mechanism by which EGF regulates ER-alpha gene expression is transcriptional. In addition to regulating the amount of ER-alpha, EGF affected the activity of the receptor. At high concentrations, EGF induced progesterone receptor. Estradiol and high concentrations of EGF had an additive effect on progesterone receptor. In contrast to high concentrations, low concentrations of EGF had no effect on progesterone receptor and blocked estradiol induction. The effects of EGF on ER-alpha expression were inhibited by tyrophostins and wortmannin, suggesting that the effects of the growth factor are mediated by the EGF receptor and protein kinase B. When the cells were placed in serum-free medium and then treated with EGF, there was no effect on ER-alpha protein concentration or activity. However, increasing concentrations of serum restored the effects of EGF on ER-alpha, suggesting that an additional serum factor was required for the EGF-mediated effect on the decrease in ER-alpha protein concentration.

    | Table of Contents