Previous studies have documented the direct antioxidant effects of estradiol, and it is tempting to ascribe the antiapoptosis effects of estradiol to its scavenging of reactive oxygen species. However, recent reports have also demonstrated that long-term exposure of MCF-7 human breast cancer cells to estradiol results in estrogen receptor- and estradiol dose-dependent overexpression of the antiapoptosis gene, bcl-2. We have used the pattern of protection of membrane phospholipids from oxidation as a probe to separate these direct and indirect effects of estradiol from one another. Immediate exposure to estradiol non-specifically protects all membrane phospholipids from oxidation by the diazo radical initiator, AMVN. This implies the direct antioxidant activity of estradiol in this system. In contrast, long-term exposure, with associated increased expression of bcl-2, protects only phosphatidylserine, the oxidation of which is a critical component of the final common pathway for apoptosis. This bcl-2-mediated indirect effect of estradiol is accompanied by prevention of apoptosis in MCF-7 cells.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.