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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Modulation of aromatase expression in human breast tissue.

Aromatase plays an important role in breast cancer development through its role in the synthesis of estrogen. Aromatase expression in breast tissue can be regulated by several mechanisms. The major promoter usage for aromatase expression in breast tumors (i.e. cAMP-stimulated promoters I.3 and II) is different from that in normal breast tissue (i.e. glucocorticoid-stimulated promoter I.4). Recent characterization of transcription factors that interact with the two important regulatory elements near promoters I.3 and II, i.e. S1 and CREaro, helps us better understand the mechanism of the switch of promoter usage between normal breast tissue and cancer tissue. It is thought that in normal breast tissue, the function of promoters I.3 and II is suppressed through the binding of EAR-2, COUP-TFI, and EARgamma to S1, and through the binding of Snail/Slug proteins to their binding site that quenchs the CREaro activity. In cancer tissue, the expression levels of EAR-2, COUP-TFI, EARgamma, Snail, and Slug decrease, and aromatase expression is then up regulated through the binding of ERRalpha-1 to S1 and the binding of CREB or related factors to CREaro. Results from this and other laboratories reveal that aromatase activity in aromatase expressing cells can also be modified by treatment with aromatase inhibitors and the antiestrogen ICI 182, 780. While aromatase inhibitors are used to treat breast cancer, the treatment has been found to increase the level of aromatase in the breast tissue of some patients. The enhancement of aromatase activity by aromatase inhibitors is thought to be due to a decrease of aromatase protein degradation by enzyme-inhibitor complex formation, up-regulation of the aromatase gene transcription through a cAMP-mediated mechanism, and an induction of aromatase expression by gonadtropins that are released from the pituitary in response to a reduction of estrogen levels in circulation in premenopausal women. Antiestrogen ICI 182, 780 has been found to suppress aromatase expression, but the mechanism has not yet been determined. In addition, aromatase activity and expression can be affected by environmental chemicals. A detailed structure-function study has revealed that flavones, but not isoflavones, are inhibitors of aromatase. It was found that flavones bind to the active site of aromatase in an orientation in which their rings-A and -C mimic rings-D and -C of the androgen substrate. The modulation of aromatase expression by endocrine disrupting chemicals is exemplified by two organochlorine pesticides (i.e. toxaphene and chlordane) that have been found to be antagonists of ERRalpha-1 orphan receptor. These compounds reduce ERRalpha-1 activity, resulting in a suppression of aromatase expression.[1]


  1. Modulation of aromatase expression in human breast tissue. Chen, S., Zhou, D., Yang, C., Okubo, T., Kinoshita, Y., Yu, B., Kao, Y.C., Itoh, T. J. Steroid Biochem. Mol. Biol. (2001) [Pubmed]
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