D538G mutation in estrogen receptor-α: A novel mechanism for acquired endocrine resistance in breast cancer

Keren Merenbakh-Lamin, Noa Ben-Baruch, Adva Yeheskel, Addie Dvir, Lior Soussan-Gutman, Rinath Jeselsohn, Roman Yelensky, Myles Brown, Vincent A. Miller, David Sarid, Shulamith Rizel, Baruch Klein, Tami Rubinek, Ido Wolf*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Resistance to endocrine therapy occurs in virtually all patients with estrogen receptor α (ERα)-positive metastatic breast cancer, and is attributed to various mechanisms including loss of ERα expression, altered activity of coregulators, and cross-talk between the ERα and growth factor signaling pathways. To our knowledge, acquired mutations of the ERα have not been described as mediating endocrine resistance. Samples of 13 patients with metastatic breast cancer were analyzed for mutations in cancer-related genes. In five patients who developed resistance to hormonal therapy, a mutation of A to G at position 1,613 of ERα, resulting in a substitution of aspartic acid at position 538 to glycine (D538G), was identified in liver metastases. Importantly, the mutation was not detected in the primary tumors obtained prior to endocrine treatment. Structural modeling indicated that D538G substitution leads to a conformational change in the ligand-binding domain, which mimics the conformation of activated ligand-bound receptor and alters binding of tamoxifen. Indeed, experiments in breast cancer cells indicated constitutive, ligand-independent transcriptional activity of the D538G receptor, and overexpression of it enhanced proliferation and conferred resistance to tamoxifen. These data indicate a novel mechanism of acquired endocrine resistance in breast cancer. Further studies are needed to assess the frequency of D538G-ERα among patients with breast cancer and explore ways to inhibit its activity and restore endocrine sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6856-6864
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Research
Issue number23
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2013


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