Kinase-specific phosphorylation of the estrogen receptor changes receptor interactions with ligand, deoxyribonucleic acid, and coregulators associated with alterations in estrogen and tamoxifen activity

Mol Endocrinol. 2006 Dec;20(12):3120-32. doi: 10.1210/me.2006-0068. Epub 2006 Aug 31.


Posttranslational modifications of the estrogen receptor (ER) are emerging as important regulatory elements of cross talk between different signaling pathways. ER phosphorylation, in particular, has been implicated in the ligand-independent effects of ER and in tamoxifen resistance of breast tumors. In our studies, Western immunoblot analysis of endogenous ER in parental MCF-7 cells reveals specific, ligand-dependent phosphorylations at S118 and S167, with this ligand dependence being lost in tamoxifen-resistant, MCF-7 Her2/neu cells. Using highly purified components and sensitive fluorescence methods in an in vitro system, we show that phosphorylation by different kinases alters ER action through distinct mechanisms. Phosphorylation by Src and protein kinase A increases affinity for estradiol (E2), whereas ER phosphorylation by MAPK decreases trans-hydroxytamoxifen (TOT) binding. Affinity of ER for the consensus estrogen response element is also altered by phosphorylation in a ligand-specific manner, with decrease in affinity of MAPK- and Src-phosphorylated ER in the presence of TOT. ER phosphorylation by MAPK, AKT, or protein kinase A increases recruitment of steroid receptor coactivator 3 receptor interaction domain to the DNA-bound receptor in the presence of E2. Taken together, these results suggest that ER phosphorylation alters receptor functions (ligand, DNA, and coactivator binding), effecting changes that could lead to an increase in E2 agonism and a decrease in TOT antagonistic activity, reflecting changes encountered in tamoxifen resistance in endocrine therapy of breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm*
  • Estradiol / pharmacology*
  • Estrogens / metabolism
  • Estrogens / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / genetics
  • Receptors, Estrogen / genetics
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism*
  • Tamoxifen / pharmacology*


  • Estrogens
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Tamoxifen
  • Estradiol
  • DNA
  • Protein Kinases
  • Receptor, ErbB-2