Background: Estrogen receptors (ER) are expressed in about two thirds of human breast cancer, and are an important pharmacological target for treatment of these tumors. Dominant negative forms of the ER have been suggested as an alternative method to disrupt ER function. In this study, we examined the effect of dominant negative ER mutants (ER1-536 and L540Q) on ER-positive breast cancer cells in vitro and in vivo.
Materials and methods: ER-positive T47D breast cancer cells were infected with adenoviral vectors expressing ER1-536 and L540Q to examine the effects of the mutants on gene expression and cell growth. Adenoviral vectors containing the wild type ER (AdwtER) and beta-galactosidase gene (AdGal) were used as controls.
Results: Ad1-536 or AdL540Q infection inhibited T47D cell growth and induced apoptosis, increasing Bax protein and phosphorylation of p38 mitogen-activated-protein kinase (MAPK). Consistent with the apoptotic effects in vitro, pre-infection of T47D cells with Ad1-536 or AdL540Q inhibited tumor formation when these cells were introduced into nude mice. In addition, injection of Ad1-536 and AdL540Q into pre-established T47D tumors induced tumor regression. Apoptosis, in conjunction with the activation of caspase-3 and phosphorylation of p38 MAPK, was detected in the shrinking tumors. Overexpression of wild-type ER by AdwtER infection also produced antiproliferative and apoptotic effects, but to a lesser extent than the ER1-536 and L540Q mutants.
Conclusions: These results indicate that dominant negative ER mutants have the potential to induce apoptosis of T47D cells and regression of tumors. The delivery of dominant negative ERs by adenoviral vectors may provide a useful tool for targeted therapy of ER-positive breast cancer.