Tamoxifen induction of CCAAT enhancer-binding protein α is required for tamoxifen-induced apoptosis

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Low concentrations of tamoxifen or its active metabolite 4-hydroxytamoxifen (OHT) induce estrogen receptor α(ERα)-dependent apoptosis. To analyze the pathway of OHT-ERα-induced apoptosis, we developed stably transfected lines of HeLa cells expressing wild-type ER and an inactive mutant ERα unable to bind estrogen response elements. HeLa cells expressing the mutant ERα and HeLa cells expressing wild-type ERα in which the ER was knocked down with an ER-specific small interfering RNA were not killed by Tam or OHT, suggesting that estrogen response element-mediated transcription is required for Tam- and OHT-induced apoptosis. Microarray analysis to identify a gene(s) whose expression is important in OHT-ER-mediated apoptosis identified 19 mRNAs that OHT up-regulated by >1.6-fold and 15 down-regulated mRNAs. Gene function and the time course of induction by OHT-ERα led us to further investigate CCAAT enhancer-binding protein α (C/EBPα), which has roles in cell cycle progression and apoptosis, and p21. Quantitative reverse transcription-PCR, Western blot analysis, and RNA interference knockdown suggest that cell cycle arrest resulting from OHT-ERα induction of p21 may facilitate apoptosis. OHT-ERα, but not E2-ERα, induced C/EBPα mRNA and protein. RNA interference knockdown of C/EBPα nearly abolished OHT-ERα-induced apoptosis. We isolated stable cell lines that were resistant to OHT-induced apoptosis, contain full-length functional ERα, and undergo apoptosis in response to etoposide. In these OHT-resistant cell lines both before and after OHT treatment, C/EBPα levels are much lower than in OHT-sensitive cells. These studies establish a novel molecular site responsible for Tam- and OHT-ERα-induced apoptosis of cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30535-30543
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number42
StatePublished - Oct 19 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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