The effects of all-trans retinoic acid on estrogen receptor signaling in the estrogen-sensitive MCF/BUS subline

Ignacio Miro Estruch*, Laura H.J. de Haan, Diana Melchers, René Houtman, Jochem Louisse, John P. Groten, Ivonne M.C.M. Rietjens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) and retinoic acid receptors (RARs) play important and opposite roles in breast cancer growth. While exposure to ERα agonists such as 17β-estradiol (E2) is related to proliferation, RAR agonists such as all-trans retinoic acid (AtRA) induce anti-proliferative effects. Although crosstalk between these pathways has been proposed, the molecular mechanisms underlying this interplay are still not completely unraveled. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of AtRA on ERα-mediated signaling in the ERα positive cell lines MCF7/BUS and U2OS-ERα-Luc to investigate some of the possible underlying modes of action. To do so, this study assessed the effects of AtRA on different ERα-related events such as ERα-mediated cell proliferation and gene expression, ERα-coregulator binding and ERα subcellular localization. AtRA-mediated antagonism of E2-induced signaling was observed in the proliferation and gene expression studies. However, AtRA showed no remarkable effects on the E2-driven coregulator binding and subcellular distribution of ERα. Interestingly, in the absence of E2, ERα-mediated gene expression, ERα-coregulator binding and ERα subcellular mobilization were increased upon exposure to micromolar concentrations of AtRA found to inhibit cell proliferation after long-term exposure. Nevertheless, experiments using purified ERα showed that direct binding of AtRA to ERα does not occur. Altogether, our results using MCF7/BUS and U2OS-ERα-Luc cells suggest that AtRA, without being a direct ligand of ERα, can indirectly interfere on basal ERα-coregulator binding and basal ERα subcellular localization in addition to the previously described crosstalk mechanisms such as competition of ERs and RARs for DNA binding sites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-121
JournalJournal of Receptors and Signal Transduction
Issue number2
Early online date14 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • breast cancer
  • coregulator
  • crosstalk
  • ERα
  • proliferation
  • RAR


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