9-cis Retinoic Acid Inhibits Growth of Breast Cancer Cells and Down-Regulates Estrogen Receptor RNA and Protein

Mark Rubin, Eyal Fenig, Angelika Rosenauer, Wilson H. Miller, John Mendelsohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


All-trans retinoic acid (tRA) inhibits growth of estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer cells in vitro, and a variety of retinoids inhibit development of breast cancer in animal models. 9-cis retinoic acid (9-cis RA) is a naturally occurring high affinity ligand for the retinoid X receptors, as well as the retinoic acid receptors (RARs). Whether 9-cis RA has a different spectrum of biological activity from tRA, which only binds RARs with high affinity, is largely unknown. We studied the effects of 9-cis RA on growth and gene expression in ER+ and ER human breast cancer cells. 9-cis RA inhibited the growth in monolayer culture of several ER+, but not ER, cell lines in a dose-dependent manner. Growth inhibition and morphological changes by 9-cis RA were similar to those of tRA, suggesting that the ability to bind both RAR and retinoid X receptors did not significantly augment growth inhibition or confer sensitivity to tRA-resistant lines. MCF-7 cells exposed to 9-cis RA showed a dose-dependent accumulation in G1. Northern analyses showed that RAR-α and RAR-β were not significantly regulated, while RAR-γ was up-regulated and retinoid X receptor α was down-regulated by 9-cis RA. Since interactions between tRA and ER-dependent transcription have recently been reported, we investigated whether these retinoids regulate expression of ER itself or estrogen-responsive genes. Both 9-cis RA and tRA induce down-regulation of ER mRNA and protein in MCF-7 cells. 9-cis RA down-regulates expression of the estrogen-responsive genes PR and pS2 in MCF-7 cells as reported previously for tRA. In several ER-positive subclones, we found that the degree of ER expression and regulation, but not always estrogen-sensitivity, correlates with the growth-inhibitory effects of 9-cis RA. Further, in an ER-, retrnoid-unresponsive breast cancer cell line, induced ER expression confers responsiveness to retinoid growth inhibition. These data, combined with reports of additive growth inhibition of tRA and tamoxifen in vitro, suggest that 9-cis RA might augment the ability of tamoxifen to inhibit growth of ER+ breast cancer cells in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6549-6556
Number of pages8
JournalCancer Research
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 1994
Externally publishedYes


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