Recent data on estrogen sulfatases and sulfotransferases activities in human breast cancer

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 1992 Mar;41(3-8):323-9. doi: 10.1016/0960-0760(92)90358-p.


Of the total number of breast cancers approx. 30-50% are hormone-dependent and estradiol is one of the main factors of cancerization. Consequently, the control of this hormone inside the cancer cell is of capital importance because it is well established that the inhibition of estradiol biosynthesis can have a positive effect on the evolution of the disease. The blockage of estradiol can be obtained by the action of anti-aromatases, anti-sulfatases, the control of the 17 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase activity or by the stimulation of the sulfotransferase which converted the estrogens in their sulfates. In breast cancer tissue estrone sulfate is quantitatively the most important source of estradiol. In the intact cell, estrone sulfatase activity is very intense in the hormone-dependent cell lines (e.g. MCF-7, T-47D) but very small activity is observed in the hormone-independent (e.g. MDA-MB-231, MDA-MB-436) cell lines. However, this activity became very strong after homogenization in the hormone-independent cells, suggesting the presence of repressive factor(s) for this enzyme or its sequestering in an inactive form, in the intact cells of these cell lines. In a series of previous studies it was found that in hormone-dependent cell lines different anti-estrogens: tamoxifen and derivatives, ICI 164,384, very significantly decrease the estradiol concentration originated from estrone sulfate, and recently it was observed that Decapeptyl (D-Trp6-gonadotropin-releasing hormone) in the presence of heparin can also decrease the conversion of estrone sulfate into estradiol. No significant effect was obtained in the presence of heparin or Decapeptyl alone. The estrone sulfatase activity can be inhibited by progesterone, the progestagen R-5020, and testosterone. In another series of recent studies the presence of very strong estrogen sulfotransferase activity has been shown in one breast cancer cell line, the MDA-MB-468. We can conclude that: (1) the control of estradiol concentration can be carried out in the breast cancer tissue itself; (2) estrone sulfate can play an important role in the bioavailability of estradiol in the breast cancer cell; and (3) as is the case for the aromatase, the control of: the estrogen sulfatase, estrogen sulfotransferase, and 17 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase can be new targets for therapeutic applications in breast cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Cell Line
  • Estradiol / metabolism
  • Estrogen Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Promegestone / pharmacology*
  • Sulfatases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Sulfatases / metabolism*
  • Sulfotransferases*
  • Sulfurtransferases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Sulfurtransferases / metabolism*
  • Testosterone / pharmacology*


  • Estrogen Antagonists
  • Testosterone
  • Estradiol
  • Promegestone
  • Sulfurtransferases
  • Sulfotransferases
  • estrone sulfotransferase
  • Sulfatases
  • estrone sulfatase