Studies have shown an increased risk for breast cancer in the mothers of children suffering from retinoblastoma and osteosarcoma, suggesting a role for the retinoblastoma susceptibility (Rb) gene product in breast cancer. We now show that estradiol decreases the expression of Rb at the level of protein and messenger RNA (mRNA) in estrogen-dependent breast cancer cell lines. Treatment of MCF-7 cells with 10-9 M estradiol for 48 h resulted in a 70% decrease in the level of Rb protein. Ribonuclease protection assays showed a 50% decrease in the steady state levels of Rb mRNA by 12 h and a 70% decrease in Rb mRNA by 24 h. Treatment with estradiol had no effect on the rate of Rb gene transcription or on Rb mRNA stability, but resulted in an increase in the steady state level of Rb mRNA in the nucleus. The effect of estradiol was inhibited by 10-7 M 4-hydroxytamoxifen. In the absence of estradiol, the antiestrogens 4-hydroxytamoxifen and ICI 164,384 increased Rb mRNA by 50% over that in estrogen-depleted conditions. Estradiol regulation of Rb mRNA also occurred in other estrogen-dependent breast cancer cell lines. Insulin-like growth factor I, insulin, progestins, and epidermal growth factor had no effect on Rb expression. In summary, these results show that estradiol specifically regulates the expression of the Rb susceptibility gene product in hormone-dependent breast cancer by a posttranscriptional mechanism that occurs in the nucleus. The results from this study suggest that the negative regulation of Rb expression by estradiol, rather than Rb loss or mutation, may play an important role in breast carcinogenesis.
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