High dose 17β-estradiol and the α-estrogen agonist PPT trigger apoptosis in human adrenal carcinoma cells but the β-estrogen agonist DPN does not

L. M. Prieto, J. W. Brown, C. Perez-Stable, L. M. Fishman

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6 Scopus citations


Previous studies have shown that high dose 17β-estradiol (10 -5 M) has a G2/M blocking effect in SW-13 human adrenal carcinoma cultures and strongly enhances apoptosis. To examine the differential effects of estrogen α and β-receptors in this system, we incubated SW-13 cells with specific α- and β-estrogen receptor agonists, PPT [4,4′,4″-(propyl-[1H]-pyraole-1,3,5-triyl) trisphenol] and DPN [2,3-bis (4-hydroxyphenyl) propionitrile], respectively (each at 10 -5 M). Flow cytometry was used to analyze the percentages of cells in various phases of the cell cycle [sub-G1 (apoptosis), G1, S, and G2/M] in each experimental condition. Exposure to 17β-estradiol for 48 hours increased apoptosis more than 5-fold (from 3.6 ± 0.5 to 20 ± 2.2% of cells; p < 0.01). The α-estrogen agonist PPT had a similar effect, increasing apoptosis to 22 ± 1.7% (p < 0.01), but the β-agonist DPN caused no change (3.6 ± 0.5 vs. 3.9 ± 0.8%). While estrogen and the α-estrogen agonist decrease apoptosis in this system, both of these compounds decreased the percentage of cells in G1 (from 59 ± 1.4% for control to 34 ± 2.3% for estrogen and 40 ± 2.0% for PPT; p < 0.01 for both agents relative to control); the β-agonist again had no effect. Estrogen was also found to block the cell cycle in G2/M, increasing it from 15 ± 0.4 to 21 ± 1.0% of cells (p < 0.01), but neither the α- nor β-estrogen agonists had any effect at this point in the cell cycle, indicating that the influence of estrogen was not likely to be either α- or β-receptor mediated. There was no apparent effect of any of these agents on DNA synthesis, as indicated by unchanged percentages of cells in S phase. These studies suggest that induction of apoptosis by estrogen in SW-13 human adrenal cortical carcinoma cultures is mediated by the α-receptor, but the G2/M blocking effect of estrogen is not likely to be related to either α or β mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-314
Number of pages4
JournalHormone and Metabolic Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2008



  • Adrenal cancer
  • Apoptosis
  • DPN
  • Estrogen
  • PPT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology

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