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Gregorio Pérez-Palacios, René Santillán, Rocío García-Becerra, Elizabeth Borja-Cacho, Fernando Larrea, Pablo Damián-Matsumura, Leticia González and Ana E Lemus

Breast cancer is a sex steroid hormone-dependent malignant neoplasia. The role of oestradiol in this malignancy has been well documented; however, the involvement of androgens has remained controversial. To determine the role of non-phenolic androgen metabolites in human breast cancer, we studied the metabolism of [14C] testosterone and [14C] androstenedione in oestrogen-dependent MCF-7 cells and non-oestrogen-dependent MDA-MB 231 cells, at different substrate concentrations (1–10 μM) and time periods (30 min–48 h). Cultured non-oestrogen-dependent HeLa and yeast cells served as controls. Metabolites were identified and quantified by reverse isotope dilution. A distinctive pattern of androgen metabolism was identified in MCF-7 cells, being the 5α-androstane-3α,17β-diol (3α,5α-diol) and its 3β epimer (3β,5α-diol), the major conversion products of testosterone (48.3%), with 5α-dihydrotestosterone as intermediary. The formation of 3α,5α-diol and 3β,5α-diol (diols) was substrate concentration- and time-dependent, and abolished by finasteride. In contrast, very little of any diol formation was observed in MDA-MB 231, HeLa and yeast cell incubations. Additional enzyme gene expression studies revealed an overexpression of 5α-steroid reductase type-1 in MCF-7 cells, as compared with MDA-MB 231 cells. The oestrogen-like activities of diols were assessed in HeLa cells co-transfected with expression vectors for α or β subtypes of the human oestrogen receptor (hER) genes and for an oestrogen-responsive reporter gene. The results show that 3β, 5α-diol and to a lesser extent 3α,5α-diol bind with high relative affinity to hERα and hERβ.

Both diols induced hER-mediated reporter gene transactivation in a dose–response manner, similar to that induced by oestradiol, though with lower potency, an effect that was abolished by ICI-182 780. Furthermore, 3β,5α-diol and to lesser extent 3α,5α-diol induced MCF-7 cell proliferation. The overall results demonstrated that MCF-7 cells exhibit enhanced expression and activity of androgen-metabolising enzymes, leading to rapid and large diol formation, and provide evidence that these androgen metabolites exert a potent oestrogen-agonistic effect, at genomic level, in oestrogen-dependent breast cancer cells. The data suggest that diols may act as in situ intracrine factors in breast cancer and that its formation can be pharmacologically inhibited.

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María Andrea Camilletti, Alejandra Abeledo-Machado, Jimena Ferraris, Pablo A Pérez, Erika Y Faraoni, Daniel Pisera, Silvina Gutierrez and Graciela Díaz-Torga

Ovarian steroids control a variety of physiological functions. They exert actions through classical nuclear steroid receptors, but rapid non-genomic actions through specific membrane steroid receptors have been also described. In this study, we demonstrate that the G-protein-coupled estrogen receptor (GPER) is expressed in the rat pituitary gland and, at a high level, in the lactotroph population. Our results revealed that ~40% of the anterior pituitary cells are GPER positive and ~35% of the lactotrophs are GPER positive. By immunocytochemical and immuno-electron-microscopy studies, we demonstrated that GPER is localized in the plasmatic membrane but is also associated to the endoplasmic reticulum in rat lactotrophs. Moreover, we found that local Gper expression is regulated negatively by 17β-estradiol (E2) and progesterone (P4) and fluctuates during the estrus cycle, being minimal in proestrus. Interestingly, lack of ovarian steroids after an ovariectomy (OVX) significantly increased pituitary GPER expression specifically in the three morphologically different subtypes of lactotrophs. We found a rapid estradiol stimulatory effect on PRL secretion mediated by GPER, both in vitro and ex vivo, using a GPER agonist G1, and this effect was prevented by the GPER antagonist G36, demonstrating a novel role for this receptor. Then, the increased pituitary GPER expression after OVX could lead to alterations in the pituitary function as all three lactotroph subtypes are target of GPER ligand and could be involved in the PRL secretion mediated by GPER. Therefore, it should be taken into consideration in the response of the gland to an eventual hormone replacement therapy.

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Liliana del V Sosa, Juan P Petiti, Florencia Picech, Sabrina Chumpen, Juan P Nicola, Pablo Perez, Ana De Paul, Javier Valdez-Taubas, Silvina Gutierrez and Alicia I Torres

The molecular mechanisms underlying the ERα nuclear/cytoplasmic pool that modulates pituitary cell proliferation have been widely described, but it is still not clear how ERα is targeted to the plasma membrane. The aim of this study was to analyse ERα palmitoylation and the plasma membrane ERα (mERα) pool, and their participation in E2-triggered membrane-initiated signalling in normal and pituitary tumour cell growth. Cell cultures were prepared from anterior pituitaries of female Wistar rats and tumour GH3 cells, and treated with 10 nM of oestradiol (E2). The basal expression of ERα was higher in tumour GH3 than in normal pituitary cells. Full-length palmitoylated ERα was observed in normal and pituitary tumour cells, demonstrating that E2 stimulation increased both, ERα in plasma membrane and ERα and caveolin-1 interaction after short-term treatment. In addition, the Dhhc7 and Dhhc21 palmitoylases were negatively regulated after sustained stimulation of E2 for 3 h. Although the uptake of BrdU into the nucleus in normal pituitary cells was not modified by E2, a significant increase in the GH3 tumoural cell, as well as ERK1/2 activation, with this effect being mimicked by PPT, a selective antagonist of ERα. These proliferative effects were blocked by ICI 182780 and the global inhibitor of palmitoylation. These findings indicate that ERα palmitoylation modulated the mERα pool and consequently the ERK1/2 pathway, thereby contributing to pituitary tumour cell proliferation. These results suggest that the plasma membrane ERα pool might be related to the proliferative behaviour of prolactinoma and may be a marker of pituitary tumour growth.