Oestrogen receptors alpha and beta differ in normal human breast and breast carcinomas

J Pathol. 2002 Dec;198(4):450-7. doi: 10.1002/path.1230.


The identification of a second oestrogen receptor, oestrogen receptor (ER) beta, has led to a need to assess the relative importance of the classical ERalpha and ERbeta in human breast and breast carcinomas. ERalpha and ERbeta mRNA was assessed in 61 carcinomas, 8 benign breast lesions, and 30 samples of normal breast using reverse transcriptase (RT)-nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Immunohistochemical analysis of ERalpha and ERbeta was performed in 62 carcinomas, the 38 non-malignant breast tissues, and 32 normal breast samples with menstrual cycle data. ERalpha mRNA was detected in 92% of breast cancers, with ERbeta mRNA (wild-type and/or variant form) in 85%; 72% had ERalpha protein, 62% progesterone receptor (PgR), and 32% ERbeta. ERalpha protein had a strong correlation with grade; ERbeta did not, although it was present in three of four grade I carcinomas and in special types. There was no correlation between the presence of ERalpha and ERbeta protein. In non-malignant breast, similar expression of ERalpha and beta was observed, apart from expression of ERbeta in stromal cells and myoepithelium, the latter being confirmed by RT-PCR and western blotting. There were differences in ERalpha in relation to the menstrual cycle but not PgR or ERbeta. The findings indicate a need to understand the role and regulation of ERbeta in normal breast and the reason for its down-regulation in mammary carcinogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Estrogen Receptor beta
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Menstrual Cycle / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Progesterone / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Estrogen Receptor beta
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone