The nonsteroidal antiestrogen tamoxifen (TAM) is the most commonly used endocrine treatment for all stages of breast cancer in both pre- and postmenopausal women. However, the development of resistance to the drug is common, as most patients treated with TAM eventually experience a recurrence of tumor growth. One of the potential mechanisms of treatment failure is the acquisition by the tumor of the ability to respond to TAM as a stimulatory rather than inhibitory ligand. We (Gottardis and Jordan, Cancer Res 48:5183-5187, 1988; Wolf et al., J Natl Cancer Inst 85:806-812, 1993) and others (Osborne et al., Eur J Cancer Clin Oncol 23: 1189-1196, 1987; Osborne et al., J Natl Cancer Inst 83: 1477-1482, 1991) have extensively described the reproducible development of TAM stimulated growth in a laboratory model system using MCF-7 human breast cancer cells grown as solid tumors in athymic mice. In this paper we report on the isolation of an estrogen receptor (ER) from a TAM stimulated tumor (MCF-7/MT2) which contains a point mutation that causes a tyrosine for aspartate substitution at amino acid 351 in the ligand binding domain. The mutant appears to the major form of ER expressed by this tumor. We also report that only wild type ER was detected in three other TAM stimulated MCF-7 tumor variants, suggesting that multiple mechanisms are possible for the development of TAM stimulated growth. The implications of these findings are discussed.