Delayed and persistent ERK1/2 activation is required for 4-hydroxytamoxifen-induced cell death

Jian Hua Zhou, David V. Yu, Jingwei Cheng, David J. Shapiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tamoxifen (Tam), and its active metabolite, 4-hydroxytamoxifen (OHT), compete with estrogens for binding to the estrogen receptor (ER). Tam and OHT can also induce ER-dependent apoptosis of cancer cells. 10-100 nM OHT induces ER-dependent apoptosis in ∼3 days. Using HeLaER6 cells, we examined the role of OHT activation of signal transduction pathways in OHT-ER-mediated apoptosis. OHT-ER activated the p38, JNK and ERK1/2 pathways. Inhibition of p38 activation with SB203580, or RNAi-knockdown of p38α, moderately reduced OHT-ER mediated cell death. A JNK inhibitor partly reduced cell death. Surprisingly, the MEK1/2 inhibitor, PD98059, completely blocked OHT-ER induced apoptosis. EGF, an ERK1/2 activator, enhanced OHT-induced apoptosis. OHT induced a delayed and persistent phosphorylation of ERK1/2 that persisted for >80 h. Addition of PD98059 as late as 24 h after OHT largely blocked OHT-ER mediated apoptosis. The antagonist, ICI 182,780, blocked both the long-term OHT-mediated phosphorylation of ERK1/2 and OHT-induced apoptosis. Our data suggests that the p38 and JNK pathways, which often play a central role in apoptosis, have only a limited role in OHT-ER-mediated cell death. Although rapid activation of the ERK1/2 pathway is often associated with cell growth, persistent activation of the ERK1/2 pathway is essential for OHT-ER induced cell death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)765-777
Number of pages13
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - Oct 2007


  • Apoptosis
  • ERK
  • Estrogen receptor
  • Tamoxifen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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