Identification of a Raloxifene Analog That Promotes AhR-Mediated Apoptosis in Cancer Cells

Biology (Basel). 2017 Dec 1;6(4):41. doi: 10.3390/biology6040041.


We previously reported that raloxifene, an estrogen receptor modulator, is also a ligand for the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR). Raloxifene induces apoptosis in estrogen receptor-negative human cancer cells through the AhR. We performed structure-activity studies with seven raloxifene analogs to better understand the structural requirements of raloxifene for induction of AhR-mediated transcriptional activity and apoptosis. We identified Y134 as a raloxifene analog that activates AhR-mediated transcriptional activity and induces apoptosis in MDA-MB-231 human triple negative breast cancer cells. Suppression of AhR expression strongly reduced apoptosis induced by Y134, indicating the requirement of AhR for Y134-induced apoptosis. Y134 also induced apoptosis in hepatoma cells without having an effect on cell cycle regulation. Toxicity testing on zebrafish embryos revealed that Y134 has a significantly better safety profile than raloxifene. Our studies also identified an analog of raloxifene that acts as a partial antagonist of the AhR, and is capable of inhibiting AhR agonist-induced transcriptional activity. We conclude that Y134 is a promising raloxifene analog for further optimization as an anti-cancer agent targeting the AhR.

Keywords: Y134; agonist; antagonist; anti-cancer drug; apoptosis; aryl hydrocarbon receptor; estrogen receptor modulator; hepatoma; raloxifene; triple negative breast cancer.