Somatic mutations in the estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) gene (ESR1), especially Y537S and D538G, have been linked to acquired resistance to endocrine therapies. Cell-based studies demonstrated that these mutants confer ERα constitutive activity and antiestrogen resistance and suggest that ligand-binding domain dysfunction leads to endocrine therapy resistance. Here, we integrate biophysical and structural biology data to reveal how these mutations lead to a constitutively active and antiestrogen-resistant ERα. We show that these mutant ERs recruit coactivator in the absence of hormone while their affinities for estrogen agonist (estradiol) and antagonist (4-hydroxytamoxifen) are reduced. Further, they confer antiestrogen resistance by altering the conformational dynamics of the loop connecting Helix 11 and Helix 12 in the ligand-binding domain of ERα, which leads to a stabilized agonist state and an altered antagonist state that resists inhibition.
Keywords: acquired drug resistance; biophysics; breast cancer; estrogen receptor alpha; hormone; human; human biology; medicine; selective estrogen receptor modulators; somatic mutation; structural biology.