Tamoxifen induces the expression of maspin through estrogen receptor-α

Zesheng Liu, Heidi Y. Shi, Zafar Nawaz, Ming Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Maspin (mammary serine protease inhibitor) is a tumor suppressor gene that plays an important role in inhibiting tumor growth, invasion and metastasis. Maspin expression is down regulated at transcription level in primary and metastatic breast tumor cells. Previous studies on hormonal regulation of maspin prompt us to test whether an estrogen antagonist tamoxifen (TAM) [1] can exert its anti-tumor function by up regulating maspin gene expression. For this purpose, we first tested whether maspin promoter could be activated in normal and several breast tumor cells. We then carried out a series of promoter analysis in which estrogen receptors and TAM were reconstituted in an in vitro cell culture system. Here we report our new finding that tumor suppresser gene maspin is one of the TAM target genes. TAM induces a maspin/luciferase reporter in cell culture and this induction requires the presence of (estrogen receptor alpha) ERα but not estrogen receptor-β (ERβ). Maspin promoter deletion and mutation analysis showed that the cis element(s) within a region between -90and+87 bp but not the HRE site (-272 bp) was involved in TAM induction of maspin expression. TAM bound ERα may directly control maspin gene expression through the interaction with cofactor (s). Analysis using several ERα mutants showed that the N-terminal A/B motif (AF-1) was critical for maspin basal level transcription activation. An ERα mutant with point mutations at DNA binding domain abolished estrogen induction of an ERE-luciferase reporter but was still active in activating maspin promoter by TAM. LBD-AF2 domain was required for ERα-dependent TAM induction. Deletion of LBD-AF2 or a point mutation in the ERα LBD-AF2 region (LBDmtL539A) completely abolished the activation of maspin promoter, suggesting that TAM induction of maspin involves the recruitment of cofactor(s) by ERα to the maspin promoter region. This finding indicates that one of the pathways for cancer prevention and tumor inhibition by TAM is mediated through the activation of tumor suppressor gene maspin in breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-65
Number of pages11
JournalCancer letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • ERα, estrogen receptor alpha
  • ERβ, estrogen receptor beta
  • Estrogen receptor
  • Maspin
  • TAM, tomoxifen
  • Tamoxifen
  • Tumor suppression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Molecular Biology
  • Oncology


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