Raloxifene is a Female-specific Proteostasis Therapeutic in the Spinal Cord

Endocrinology. 2021 Feb 1;162(2):bqaa221. doi: 10.1210/endocr/bqaa221.


Several neurodegenerative disorders are characterized by proteasome dysfunctions leading to protein aggregations and pathogenesis. Since we showed that estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) activates the proteasome, drugs able to stimulate ERα in the central nervous system (CNS) could hold potential for therapeutic intervention. However, the transcriptional effects of selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), such as tamoxifen and raloxifene, can be tissue specific. A direct comparison of the effects of different SERMs on gene transcription in the CNS has never been performed. Here, we report an RNA-seq analysis of the spinal cord treated with estrogen, tamoxifen, or raloxifene. We find stark SERM and sex-specific differences in gene expression profiles in the spinal cord. Notably, raloxifene, but not estrogen or tamoxifen, modulates numerous deubiquitinating enzymes, proteasome subunits and assembly factors, and these effects translate into decreased protein aggregates. In the SOD1-G93A mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, we found that even a low dose of raloxifene causes a significant decrease in mutant SOD1 aggregates in the spinal cord, accompanied by a delay in the decline of muscle strength in females, but not in males. These results strongly indicate SERM-selective as well as sex-specific effects, and emphasize the importance of sex as a biological variable to be considered for the careful selection of specific SERM for use in clinical trials for neurodegenerative diseases.

Keywords: ALS; SERM; estrogen receptor; raloxifene.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / drug effects*
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / metabolism
  • Raloxifene Hydrochloride / pharmacology
  • Raloxifene Hydrochloride / therapeutic use*
  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators / pharmacology
  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators / therapeutic use*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Spinal Cord / drug effects*
  • Spinal Cord / enzymology
  • Ubiquitination / drug effects


  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators
  • Raloxifene Hydrochloride
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex