Multimodal assessment of estrogen receptor mRNA profiles to quantify estrogen pathway activity in breast tumors

Muthukaruppan, Anita, Lasham, Annette, Woad, Kathryn J., Black, Michael A., Blenkiron, Cherie, Miller, Lance D., Harris, Gavin, McCarthy, Nicole, Findlay, Michael P., Shelling, Andrew N. and Print, Cristin G. (2017) Multimodal assessment of estrogen receptor mRNA profiles to quantify estrogen pathway activity in breast tumors. Clinical Breast Cancer, 17 (2). pp. 139-153. ISSN 1938-0666

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Molecular markers have transformed our understanding of the heterogeneity of breast cancer and have allowed the identification of genomic profiles of estrogen receptor (ER)-α signaling. However, our understanding of the transcriptional profiles of ER signaling remains inadequate. Therefore, we sought to identify the genomic indicators of ER pathway activity that could supplement traditional immunohistochemical (IHC) assessments of ER status to better understand ER signaling in the breast tumors of individual patients.

Materials and Methods

We reduced ESR1 (gene encoding the ER-α protein) mRNA levels using small interfering RNA in ER+ MCF7 breast cancer cells and assayed for transcriptional changes using Affymetrix HG U133 Plus 2.0 arrays. We also compared 1034 ER+ and ER− breast tumors from publicly available microarray data. The principal components of ER activity generated from these analyses and from other published estrogen signatures were compared with ESR1 expression, ER-α IHC, and patient survival.


Genes differentially expressed in both analyses were associated with ER-α IHC and ESR1 mRNA expression. They were also significantly enriched for estrogen-driven molecular pathways associated with ESR1, cyclin D1 (CCND1), MYC (v-myc avian myelocytomatosis viral oncogene homolog), and NFKB (nuclear factor kappa B). Despite their differing constituent genes, the principal components generated from these new analyses and from previously published ER-associated gene lists were all associated with each other and with the survival of patients with breast cancer treated with endocrine therapies.


A biomarker of ER-α pathway activity, generated using ESR1-responsive mRNAs in MCF7 cells, when used alongside ER-α IHC and ESR1 mRNA expression, could provide a method for further stratification of patients and add insight into ER pathway activity in these patients.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Breast cancer; ER; ESR1; Gene expression; MCF7; Principal component analysis; RNA
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Veterinary Medicine and Science
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Eprints, Support
Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2016 14:40
Last Modified: 04 May 2020 19:58

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