The quinone reductase gene: A unique estrogen receptor-regulated gene that is activated by antiestrogens

Monica M. Montano, Benita S. Katzenellenbogen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Antiestrogens are thought to exert most of their beneficial effects in breast cancer by antagonizing the actions of estrogen. We report here that antiestrogens also stimulate the expression of quinone reductase (QR) [NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase, EC], which may provide protective effects against the toxicity and mutagenicity caused by quinones. QR is up- regulated by low concentrations of antiestrogens (trans-hydroxytamoxifen, tamoxifen, and ICI182,780) in estrogen receptor (ER)-containing breast cancer cells, and this increase is suppressed by estrogen via an ER-dependent mechanism. Since regulation of the QR gene, as well as other genes involved in detoxification such as the glutathione S-transferase Ya subunit (GST Ya) gene, is known to be mediated by an electrophile/antioxidant response element (EpRE/ARE), we examined the effects of antiestrogens on a 41-bp electrophile responsive region derived from the GST Ya gene. Transfection of this EpRE- containing region into Eg-negative breast cancer cells in the presence or absence of an expression vector for the human ER, as well as mutagenesis studies, revealed that the EpRE-containing construct was activated by antiestrogen to the same extent as by tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), a known activator of EpREs; however, only the stimulation by antiestrogen, and not TBHQ, required ER and was repressed by estradiol, although activation by both inducers mapped to the same 10-bp EpRE consensus sequence. Thus, there appear to be two pathways for QR induction, one that is activated by electrophile inducers such as TBHQ and is ER independent, and a second that is antiestrogen regulated and ER dependent; both pathways act through the EpRE. The anticancer action of antiestrogens may thus derive not only from the already well-known repression of estrogen-stimulated activities but also from the activation of detoxifying enzymes, such as QR, that may contribute to the beneficial antioxidant activity of antiestrogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2581-2586
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 18 1997


  • antioxidant
  • breast cancer
  • electrophile response element
  • tamoxifen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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