Differential regulation of estrogen receptor alpha, glucocorticoid receptor and retinoic acid receptor alpha transcriptional activity by melatonin is mediated via different G proteins

J Pineal Res. 2005 May;38(4):231-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-079X.2004.00198.x.


Melatonin has been shown to bind to the MT1 G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) in MCF-7 breast cancer cells to modulate the estrogen response pathway suppressing estrogen-induced estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha) transcriptional activity, blunting ER/DNA binding activity and suppressing cell proliferation. In these studies we have examined the effect of melatonin on the transcriptional activity of the ERalpha and other members of the steroid/thyroid hormone receptor superfamily, namely, the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) and the retinoic acid receptor alpha (RARalpha). As with the ERalpha, melatonin represses ligand (dexamethasone)-induced activation of the GR. This effect of melatonin on ERalpha and GR is blocked by pertussis toxin (PTX) suggesting that melatonin's actions may be mediated via a PTX-sensitive G(alphai) protein. In contrast, melatonin potentiates the action of all-trans-retinoic acid on RARalpha transcriptional activation and enhances RARalpha/DNA binding activity, an action which is not PTX-sensitive. Expression of a dominant-positive G(alphai2) protein, with which the MT1 receptor has been shown to couple, is able to mimic the effect of melatonin on ERalpha but not RARalpha transcriptional activation in breast cancer cells. This demonstrates that GPCRs can modulate the transcriptional activity of various steroid receptors in response to their ligand through activation of different G protein signaling pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Line
  • DNA Primers
  • Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assay
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / physiology*
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Melatonin / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / physiology*
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid / physiology*
  • Retinoic Acid Receptor alpha
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects*


  • DNA Primers
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • RARA protein, human
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid
  • Retinoic Acid Receptor alpha
  • GTP-Binding Proteins
  • Melatonin