Effects of Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase on estrogen responsiveness and oxidative stress in human breast cancer cells

Abhi K. Rao, Yvonne S. Ziegler, Ian X. McLeod, John R. Yates, Ann M. Nardulli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The effects of estrogen on gene expression in mammary cells are mediated by interaction of the estrogen receptor (ER) with estrogen response elements in target DNA. Whereas the ER is the primary initiator of transcription, the recruitment of coregulatory proteins to the DNA-bound receptor influences estrogen responsiveness. To better understand how estrogen alters gene expression, we identified proteins associated with the DNA-bound ERα. Surprisingly, the antioxidant enzyme Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1), which is known primarily as a scavenger of superoxide, was associated with the DNA-bound receptor. We have now demonstrated that SOD1 interacts with ERα from MCF-7 cell nuclear extracts and with purified ERα and that SOD1 enhances binding of ERα to estrogen response element-containing DNA. Although SOD1 decreases transcription of an estrogen-responsive reporter plasmid in transiently transfected U2 osteosarcoma cells, RNA interference assays demonstrate that SOD1 is required for effective estrogen responsiveness of the endogenous pS2, progesterone receptor, cyclin D1, and Cathepsin D genes in MCF-7 breast cancer cells. Furthermore, ERα and SOD1 are associated with regions of the pS2 and progesterone receptor genes involved in conferring estrogen-responsive gene expression. Interestingly, when MCF-7 cells are exposed to 17β-estradiol and superoxide generated by addition of potassium superoxide (KO2) to the cell medium, SOD1 levels are increased and tyrosine nitration, which is an indicator of oxidative stress-induced protein damage, is significantly diminished. Our studies have identified a new role for SOD1 in regulating estrogen-responsive gene expression and suggest that the 17β-estradiol- and KO2-induced increase in SOD1 may play a role in the survival of breast cancer cells and the progression of mammary tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1113-1124
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Endocrinology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology


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