In postmenopausal breast cancers, locally produced estrogen by adipose stromal cells causes the progression of tumor growth. Although aromatase, a key enzyme of estrogen synthesis, is highly expressed in the adipose stromal cells, and aromatase inhibitors show greater efficacy in postmenopausal breast cancers, the mechanism of increasing aromatase activity in the stromal cells remains unclear. To analyze the estrogen signals and to detect the estrogen receptor (ER)-activating ability of adipose stromal cells for individual human breast cancers, we developed a new reporter cell system. To visualize the activation of ER, we first established a stable transformant, named E10, of human breast cancer MCF-7 cells by transfection with the estrogen-responsive element-green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene. E10 cells specifically express GFP when ER is activated by estrogen or by coculture with adipose stromal cell isolated from breast tumor tissues in the presence of testoterone, a substrate for aromatase. Treatment of adipose stromal cells with dexamethasone, a stimulator of aromatase gene expression, resulted in an increase in the expression of GFP in E10 cells in the coculture. Using this system, we characterized the adipose stromal cells of 67 human breast cancers and found that GFP expression levels vary among the cases, suggesting that the ability of adipose stromal cells to activate ERs is unique for individual breast cancers. High induction levels of GFP were observed more frequently in postmenopausal cases than in premenopausal cases, whereas they did not significantly correlate with the ER expression status. Aromatase inhibitors inhibited the induction of GFP expression in the coculture, but the sensitivities to the drugs varied among the individual cases. Aromatase gene expression levels in adipose stromal cells did not always correlate with their ability to induce GFP. These results suggest that this system to detect total ER activation based on the interaction with adipose stromal cells is a useful tool for analyzing local estrogen signals and for tumor-stromal interactions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research