Background: Non-ER nuclear receptor activity can alter estrogen receptor (ER) chromatin association and resultant ER-mediated transcription. Consistent with GR modulation of ER activity, high tumor glucocorticoid receptor (GR) expression correlates with improved relapse-free survival in ER+ breast cancer (BC) patients.
Methods: In vitro cell proliferation assays were used to assess ER-mediated BC cell proliferation following GR modulation. ER chromatin association following ER/GR co-liganding was measured using global ChIP sequencing and directed ChIP analysis of proliferative gene enhancers.
Results: We found that GR liganding with either a pure agonist or a selective GR modulator (SGRM) slowed estradiol (E2)-mediated proliferation in ER+ BC models. SGRMs that antagonized transcription of GR-unique genes both promoted GR chromatin association and inhibited ER chromatin localization at common DNA enhancer sites. Gene expression analysis revealed that ER and GR co-activation decreased proliferative gene activation (compared to ER activation alone), specifically reducing CCND1, CDK2, and CDK6 gene expression. We also found that ligand-dependent GR occupancy of common ER-bound enhancer regions suppressed both wild-type and mutant ER chromatin association and decreased corresponding gene expression. In vivo, treatment with structurally diverse SGRMs also reduced MCF-7 Y537S ER-expressing BC xenograft growth.
Conclusion: These studies demonstrate that liganded GR can suppress ER chromatin occupancy at shared ER-regulated enhancers, including CCND1 (Cyclin D1), regardless of whether the ligand is a classic GR agonist or antagonist. Resulting GR-mediated suppression of ER+ BC proliferative gene expression and cell division suggests that SGRMs could decrease ER-driven gene expression.
Keywords: Breast cancer; Chromatin association; Cyclin D1; Estrogen receptor; Glucocorticoid receptor; Mutant activated estrogen receptor; Nuclear receptor crosstalk.