Metallothionein 1E mRNA is highly expressed in oestrogen receptor-negative human invasive ductal breast cancer

Br J Cancer. 2000 Aug;83(3):319-23. doi: 10.1054/bjoc.2000.1276.


Metallothioneins (MTs), a group of ubiquitous metalloproteins, comprise isoforms encoded by ten functional genes in humans. Different MT isoforms possibly play different functional roles during development or under various physiological conditions. The MT-1E isoform mRNA has been recently shown to be differentially expressed in oestrogen receptor (OR)-positive and OR-negative breast cancer cell lines. In this study, we evaluated MT-1E mRNA expression via semi-quantitative RT-PCR in 51 primary invasive ductal breast cancer tissues, concurrently with OR-positive and progesterone receptor (PR)-positive MCF7 cells, OR-negative and PR-negative MDA-MB-231 cells and PR-transfected MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells (ABC28). We demonstrated significantly higher MT-1E mRNA expression in OR-negative compared with OR-positive breast cancer tissues (P = 0.026). MCF7 cells lacked MT-1E mRNA expression, while both OR- and PR-negative MDA-MD-231 cells exhibited a high level of MT-1E mRNA expression. The level of MT-1E mRNA expression in progesterone-treated and -untreated ABC28 cells remained similar as the parental cell line MDA-MB-231-C2 cells. The results suggest that MT-1E may have specific and functional roles in OR-negative invasive ductal breast cancers, possibly mediated via effector genes downstream of the oestrogen receptor, but not through the PR pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / metabolism*
  • DNA Restriction Enzymes / metabolism
  • Electrophoresis, Agar Gel
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genetic Markers / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Isomerism
  • Metallothionein / genetics
  • Metallothionein / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / analysis
  • Receptors, Progesterone / analysis
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Transfection
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Genetic Markers
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • Metallothionein
  • DNA Restriction Enzymes