Ketononestrol aziridine [(6R*,7S*)l-(N-aziridinyl) 6,7-bis-(4-hydroxyphenyl)5-nonanone (KNA)], an aziridine derivative of hexestrol, is an estrogenic affinity label for the estrogen receptor (ER). It has an apparent relative binding affinity 8% that of estradiol and shows time-dependent irreversible binding to the ER in uterine cytosol preparations and intact human breast cancer cells (MCF-7). The agonistic activity of KNA is evident in MCF-7 cells in culture, where it increases the cell growth rate and elevates the level of progesterone receptor. KNA was prepared in high specific activity tritium-labeled form by iodination of a methanesulfonate precursor, followed by catalytic tritium-iodine exchange and aziridinylation; the material prepared has high radiochemical purity and a specific activity of 67 Ci/mmol. The covalent attachment of [3H]KNA to the ER can be followed directly by a solvent precipitation assay. In cytosol preparations of uterine ER, labeling with [3H]KNA proceeds in a time-, concentration-, and temperature-dependent manner; labeling is efficient and selective and, by competition studies, was shown to be estrogen specific. ER in intact MCF-7 cells can also be covalently labeled by treatment with [3H]KNA. Receptor covalently labeled with [3H]KNA sediments as a 4S species on high salt sucrose gradients, and its sedimentation position is shifted by treatment with monoclonal antireceptor antibodies. On sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gels, the principal labeled species migrates with a mol wt of 66,000. KNA should prove to be a useful probe for studies on receptor structure, function, and chromatin interactions, particularly when the behavior of a receptor-agonist complex is being investigated.
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