Estrogen receptor α mediates breast cancer cell resistance to paclitaxel through inhibition of apoptotic cell death

Meihua Sui, Yi Huang, Ho Park Ben, Nancy E. Davidson, Weimin Fan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Estrogen receptors (ER) are expressed in ∼65% of human breast cancer. Cumulative data from clinical trials and retrospective analyses suggest that some chemotherapeutic agents may be less effective in patients with ER-positive (ER+) tumors than those with ER-negative (ER - ) tumors. Paclitaxel is an active agent used in breast cancer chemotherapy. To investigate the possible influence of ER on the therapeutic efficacy of paclitaxel and its underlying mechanism, we established several isogenic ER+ cell lines by stable transfection of ERA expression vectors into ER - breast cancer BCap37 cells. We showed that 17-β estradiol significantly reduces the overall cytotoxicity of paclitaxel in BCap37-expressing ERα but has no influence on the ER - parental cells. Further analyses indicate that expression of ERα in BCap37 cells mainly interferes with paclitaxel-induced apoptotic cell death, without affecting paclitaxel-induced microtubule bundling and mitotic arrest. Moreover, we found that the addition of ICI 182,780 (Fulvestrant), a selective ER down-regulator, could completely reverse the resistance of ER+ BCap37 cells to paclitaxel. These findings showed that ERα-mediated breast tumor cell resistance to paclitaxel was through selective inhibition of paclitaxel-induced tumor cell apoptosis. Additionally, the combination of ICI 182,780 also sensitizes MCF-7 and T47D cell lines to the treatment of paclitaxel, which further confirmed the correlation between ERα and drug resistance in ER+ tumor cells. The results obtained from this study provide useful information for understanding ER-mediated resistance to paclitaxel and possibly other antineoplastic agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5337-5344
Number of pages8
JournalCancer Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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