Objectives: Certain estradiol metabolites may play a pivotal role in breast carcinogenesis. Of special interest are the metabolites 2-hydroxyestradiol (2-OHE2), which can react anti-carcinogenically, and 4-hydroxyestradiol (4-OHE1) and 16a-hydroxyestrone (16-OHE1), which may have procarcinogenic potential. In the present study, we have compared for the first time the effect of these metabolites and their parent substance 17beta-estradiol (E2) on proliferation, apoptosis, apoptosis markers and markers of metastatic property of human breast cancer cells.
Methods: MCF-7 cells (human estrogen-receptor positive metastatic breast cancer cell line) were incubated with the estrogens at concentrations of 0.1-100 nM. Cell proliferation rate was measured by the ATP-assay. Apoptosis was measured by cell death assay and the apoptosis markers cytochrome C, Bcl-2, Fasl and p53 were determined in cell lysates by ELISAs. The markers of metastatic property of the cell line, VEGF and MCP-1 were measured in the cell supernatant by ELISAs.
Results: The estrogens E2, 4-OHE2 and 16-OHE1 display a proliferative effect on MCF-7 cells which is accompanied by a down-regulation of apoptosis. Various markers of apoptosis such as Bcl-2, cytochrome C and p53 appear to be involved. No significant effect was found for the metabolite 2-OHE2. VEGF and MCP-1 were up-regulated by E2 and 16-OHE1, whereas 2-OHE2 and 4-OHE2 did not show any effect.
Conclusions: The most potent estrogen regarding proliferation, apoptosis and metastasis of breast cancer cells seems to be estradiol. However, the estradiol metabolites 4-OHE2 and 16-OHE1 elicit similar properties on cell proliferation, apoptosis and metastasis as compared to estradiol but only at higher concentrations. In contrast 2-OHE2 did not show any significant effect on these parameters. Thus, intracellular estradiol metabolism may determine an individual's risk for breast carcinogenesis.