Respective contribution exerted by AF-1 and AF-2 transactivation functions in estrogen receptor alpha induced transcriptional activity by isoflavones and equol: consequence on breast cancer cell proliferation

Charlotte Carreau, Gilles Flouriot, Catherine Bennetau-Pelissero, Mylène Potier
Molecular Nutrition & Food Research 2009, 53 (5): 652-8
Estrogens used in hormone replacement therapy regimens may increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Paradoxically, high consumption of plant-derived phytoestrogens, particularly soybean isoflavones, is associated with a low incidence of breast cancer. To explore the molecular basis for these potentially different experimental/clinical outcomes, we investigated whether soybean isoflavones elicit distinct transcriptional actions from estrogens by performing transient transfections in different cell lines. Our results demonstrate that 17beta estradiol (E2), isoflavones, and equol (EQ) effectively trigger the transcriptional activation with both estrogen receptors (ER), ER alpha and ER beta. ER alpha transcriptional activity is mediated through two transactivation domains AF-1 and AF-2, whose activity is tightly regulated in a cell-type and promoter-specific manner. Isoflavones, genistein, and daidzein (DAI), and EQ, the main estrogenic metabolite of DAI, are ER alpha agonists for transcriptional activation. The molecular mechanisms for ER alpha-induced transcriptional activity by isoflavones and EQ involve their capacity to act mainly through AF-1 regardless of the cell type. Therefore, our data indicate that estrogenic ligands, such as isoflavones and EQ, exert their effects on ER alpha transactivation similarly to the endogenous ligand E2, and suggest that the risk of estrogen-related diseases might not be reduced by soy-rich food and/or isoflavone- or EQ-based supplements.

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