Nuclear receptor conformation, coregulators, and tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer

Steroids. Oct-Nov 2000;65(10-11):579-84. doi: 10.1016/s0039-128x(00)00116-1.


The development of tamoxifen resistance and consequent disease progression are common occurrences in breast cancers, often despite the continuing expression of estrogen receptors (ER). Tamoxifen is a mixed antagonist, having both agonist and antagonist properties. We have suggested that the development of tamoxifen resistance is associated with an increase in its agonist-like properties, resulting in loss of antagonist effects or even inappropriate tumor stimulation. Nuclear receptor function is influenced by a family of transcriptional coregulators, that either enhance or suppress transcriptional activity. Using a mixed antagonist-biased two-hybrid screening strategy, we identified two such proteins: the human homolog of the nuclear receptor corepressor, N-CoR, and a novel coactivator, L7/SPA (Switch Protein for Antagonists). In transcriptional studies, N-CoR suppressed the agonist properties of tamoxifen and RU486, and L7/SPA increased agonist effects. We speculated that the relative levels of these coactivators and corepressors may determine the balance of agonist and antagonist properties of mixed antagonists, such as tamoxifen. Using quantitative RT-PCR, we, therefore, measured the levels of transcripts encoding these coregulators, as well as the corepressor SMRT, and the coactivator SRC-1, in a small cohort of tamoxifen-resistant and sensitive breast tumors. The results suggest that tumor sensitivity to mixed antagonists may be governed by a complex set of transcription factors, which we are only now beginning to understand.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Drug Resistance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / pharmacology
  • Nuclear Receptor Co-Repressor 1
  • Receptors, Estrogen / chemistry
  • Receptors, Estrogen / genetics*
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / pharmacology
  • Tamoxifen / pharmacology*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / pharmacology


  • NCOR1 protein, human
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Nuclear Receptor Co-Repressor 1
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Tamoxifen