The potential role of estrogen in aromatase regulation in the breast

Wei Yue, Lev M. Berstein, Ji Ping Wang, Gary M. Clark, Christopher J. Hamilton, Laurence M. Demers, Richard J. Santen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Aromatase is expressed in both normal and malignant breast tissues. Aromatase activity in the breast varies over a wide range. Our previous studies have demonstrated that in situ aromatization contributes to the estrogen content of breast tumors to a major extent. Consequently, alterations of aromatase activity could serve as a major determinant of tissue estradiol content. However, the mechanisms and extent of aromatase regulation in breast tissues have not been fully established. We have observed an inverse correlation between tumor aromatase activity and estrogen content in nude mice bearing xenografts of MCF-7 cells transfected with the aromatase gene. To investigate the potential role of estrogen in aromatase regulation in the breast, studies were carried out in an in vitro model. In this model, MCF-7 cells were cultured long term in estrogen-deprived medium and called by the acronym, LTED cells. We found that long-term estrogen deprivation enhanced aromatase activity by 3-4-fold when compared to the wild-type MCF-7 cells. Re-exposure of LTED cells to estrogen reduced aromatase activity to the levels of the wild-type MCF-7 cells. We also measured aromatase activity in 101 frozen breast carcinoma specimens and compared tumor aromatase activities in pre-menopausal patients versus post-menopausal patients and in post-menopausal patients with or without hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Although statistically not significant, there was a trend paralleling that observed in the in vitro studies. Aromatase activity was higher in breast cancer tissues from the patients with lower circulating estrogen levels. Our data suggest that estrogen may be involved in the regulation of aromatase activity in breast tissues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-164
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number1-5
StatePublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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