DNA methylome-wide alterations associated with estrogen receptor-dependent effects of bisphenols in breast cancer

Clin Epigenetics. 2019 Oct 10;11(1):138. doi: 10.1186/s13148-019-0725-y.


Background: Bisphenol A (BPA), an estrogen-like endocrine disruptor used in plastics, has been associated with development and promotion of breast cancer, so plastic manufacturers shifted towards less-studied analogs, BPF and BPS. Studying the associated DNA methylome-wide mechanisms of these derivatives is timely, particularly in comparison with BPA.

Methods: We assessed proliferation, cell cycle, and migration of breast cancer cells (estrogen receptor (ER)-positive: MCF-7 and ER-negative: MDA-MB-231) treated with BPF and BPS ± estrogen receptor inhibitor (ERI) in comparison to BPA ± ERI. RNA expression and activity of DNA (de)methylation enzymes and LINE-1 methylation were quantified. DNA methylome-wide analysis was evaluated in bisphenol-exposed cells and compared to clinical breast cancer data.

Results: The three bisphenols caused ER-dependent increased proliferation and migration of MCF-7 but not MDA-MB-231 cells, with BPS being 10 times less potent than BPA and BPF. Although they have similar chemical structures, the three bisphenols induced differential DNA methylation alterations at several genomic clusters of or single CpG sites, with the majority of these being ER-dependent. At equipotent doses, BPA had the strongest effect on the methylome, followed by BPS then BPF. No pathways were enriched for BPF while BPA- and BPS-induced methylome alterations were enriched in focal adhesion, cGMP-PKG, and cancer pathways, which were also dysregulated in methylome-wide alterations comparing ER-positive breast cancer samples to adjacent normal tissues.

Conclusions: The three bisphenols have important epigenetic effects in breast cell lines, with those of BPA and BPS overlapping with cancer-related pathways in clinical breast cancer models. Hence, further investigation of their safety is warranted.

Keywords: BPA; BPF; BPS; Breast cancer; DNA methylation; Endocrine disruptor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Benzhydryl Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • CpG Islands / drug effects
  • DNA Methylation / drug effects*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / drug effects
  • Female
  • Focal Adhesions / drug effects
  • Fulvestrant / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Gene Regulatory Networks / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Long Interspersed Nucleotide Elements / drug effects
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Phenols / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism*


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Phenols
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Fulvestrant
  • bisphenol A