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Metalloestrogenic effects of cadmium are absent in long-term estrogen-deprived MCF-7 cells: evidence for the involvement of constitutively activated estrogen receptor α and very low expression of G protein-coupled estrogen receptor 1

Hirao-Suzuki M1Takeda S2Kodama Y3Takiguchi M1Toda A4Ohara M5.

Toxicol Lett. 2019 Nov 2. pii: S0378-4274(19)30343-1. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2019.10.018. [Epub ahead of print]




Cadmium (Cd) has estrogen-like activities in breast cancer; it acts as a metalloestrogen in humans. Prospective cohort studies of Cd and breast cancer risk suggest a significant relationship between increased Cd intake and cancer incidence, with more pronounced effects for estrogen receptor α (ERα)-positive breast cancers. However, a recent systematic review with the highest level of evidence demonstrated no such relationship in post-menopausal women. Thus, the reported effects of Cd in pre- and post-menopausal ERα-positive breast cancers are inconsistent. MCF-7 human breast cancer cells normally exhibit growth through estradiol-triggered ERα signaling; however, the MCF-7 cells cultured in estrogen-deprived conditions for a long time (∼ 6 months) eventually result in LTED cells that can be used to utilize to study the proliferation of ERα-positive breast cancer cells obtained from post-menopausal women. Our results showed that unlike MCF-7 cells, LTED cells showed estradiol-independent growth because of constitutively activated ERα. Moreover, Cd (∼10 nM) stimulated ERα signaling in MCF-7 cells and ERα-expressing LTED cells, but not in LTED cells; in ERα-expressing LTED cells, this effect was reversed by ICI 182,780 (an ERα antagonist). Furthermore, in comparison with MCF-7 cells, the LTED cells expressed very low levels of G protein-coupled estrogen receptor 1 (GPER1), a membrane ER capable of stimulating the estrogenic activity of Cd. These findings suggest that the estrogenic action of Cd may be suppressed in LTED cells, and potentially in post-menopausal breast cancer.