Estrogen unresponsiveness among primate species can result from overexpression of a heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein (hnRNP) that competes with estrogen receptor (ER) for binding to the estrogen-response element (ERE). This hnRNP has been coined the "ERE-binding protein" (ERE-BP). The ERE-BP is a member of the hnRNP C-like subfamily of hnRNPs, traditionally considered to be single-strand RNA binding proteins designed for the stabilization and handling of pre-mRNA. To verify in vivo the dominant-negative actions of the ERE-BP to inhibit ER-ERE-directed transactivation and to avoid the potential for lethality from global overexpression of an hnRNP, we generated transgenic mice that overexpressed ERE-BP in breast tissue under the control of a whey acidic protein gene promoter. Graded overexpression of ERE-BP in transgenic mice was established. Founders were viable and fertile. Female transgenics in all lines gave birth to pups, but their ability to nurse was dependent on the level of ERE-BP expression in breast; high-ERE-BP expressors were unable to lactate. A gradient of impaired breast pheno(histo-)type, from near normal to failed ductal development and lactational capacity, correlated with the relative level of transgene expression. ERE-BP, expressed either endogenously as a transgene or after transfection, colocalized with ERα in the nucleus of target cells. This work confirms that tissue-targeted overexpression of the ERE-BP can effectively block estrogen-ERα-ERE-directed action in vivo.
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