Paradoxical interactions among estrogen receptors, estrogens and SERMS: Mutual annihilation and synergy

A. M. Kaye, M. Spatz, A. Waisman, S. Sasson, S. Tamir, J. Vaya, D. Somjen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The phenomenon of mutual annihilation of action between 17β estradiol (E2) and a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM), previously described in prepubertal rat diaphysis, epiphysis and uterus, has been investigated in ROS 17/2.8 rat osteoblastic cells and in transiently co-transfected cells in culture. In ROS 17/2.8 cells, the estrogen-induced marker enzyme creatine kinase B (CKB) was stimulated by raloxifene, tamoxifen and tamoxifen methiodide to a specific activity equal to or greater than that induced by 10 nM E2. However, when a fully inhibitory dose of any of these SERMS was given simultaneously with E2, no stimulation of CK activity resulted. Therefore, SERMS can be full agonists when acting alone, but complete antagonists to a super-physiological dose of estrogen. It is expected that excess tamoxifen would prevent the action of a SERM, but that the agonist activity of a SERM is abolished by 1000-fold less estrogen is a phenomenon without obvious explanation by classical pharmacology of competitive inhibition. To probe the mechanism of this interaction further, a ckb-CAT reporter plasmid, plus the human receptor expression plasmid, HEO, was transfected transiently into several cell types. In MCF-7 cells, a 1:10 ratio of E2 to tamoxifen produced mutual annihilation, but the same ratio in ROS 17/2.8 or HeLa cells led to synergistic stimulation. In HeLa cells, co-transfected with the more efficient wild-type estrogen receptor plasmid, HEGO, synergy was demonstrated only at sub-saturation levels of HEGO. We speculate that, in the presence of estradiol and a SERM, not only active homodimers would be formed, but also hetero-dimers of estrogen-liganded and tamoxifen-liganded receptor monomers, depending on the molar ratio of their ligands and their relative affinities. The resulting hetero-dimer conformation would change the specific receptor surface for interactions with the growing number of co-activators and co-repressors, structural changes which could help to explain the mutual annihilation and synergy phenomena and their cell selectivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-93
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number1-5
StatePublished - 2001


  • 17β-Estradiol
  • Antagonism
  • Creatine kinase B
  • Estrogens


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