Activation of transcriptionally inactive human estrogen receptors by cyclic adenosine 3′,5′-monophosphate and ligands including antiestrogens

B. Avery Ince, Monica M. Montano, Benita S. Katzenellenbogen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We show that some transcriptionally inactive human estrogen receptor (ER) mutants can be activated by 17β-estradiol (E2), and sometimes by antiestrogens, in the presence of elevated levels of intracellular cAMP. ER-deficient Chinese hamster ovary or 3T3 mouse fibroblast cells were transfected with mutant ERs (the point mutant L540Q, the frameshift mutant S554fs, or the carboxy-terminal truncated receptor ER1-530) and various estrogen response element-containing reporter genes. Individual treatments with E2, the antiestrogens trans-hydroxytamoxifen and ICI164,384, or with 3-isobutyl-1-methyl-xanthine plus cholera toxin (IBMX plus CT) which raise intracellular cAMP, generally do not activate the mutant receptors. However, cotreatment with IBMX/CT and one of the three ligands (E2, trans-hydroxytamoxifen, or ICI 164,384) results in the unexpected recovery of strong activation of the L540Q or S554fs receptors, the magnitude of which is dependent upon promoter- and cell-contexts. Unlike L540Q and S554fs, the transcriptionally inactive ER1-530 is not activated by any combination of ligands and IBMX/ CT. These data demonstrate that some ER mutants that form transcriptionally nonproductive ER-E2 complexes can be successfully activated by the combination of an agonist or antagonist ligand and an agent thought to act via phosphorylation pathways. Also highlighted is the promoter- and cell-specific nature of the transcriptional response to different ligand-ER complexes. Lastly, the enhanced transcriptional activity of wild type ER and some ER mutants in the presence of antiestrogens and elevated intracellular cAMP may provide a partial explanation of the ability of some estrogen-dependent human breast tumors to resist antiestrogen therapies currently employed. (Molecular Endocrinology 8: 1397-1406, 1994).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1397-1406
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Endocrinology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology


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