Digital Object Identifier / DOI
Natural Sciences and Mathematics
Cadmium is an environmental contaminant that can activate estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) and contribute to the development and progression of breast cancer. Our lab previously demonstrated that chronic cadmium exposure alters the expression of several ERα-responsive genes and increases the malignancy of breast cancer cells. Although these studies support cadmium's function as a hormone disrupter, the role of ERα in cadmium-induced breast cancer progression remains unclear. To address this, we modulated the expression of ERα and found that while the loss of ERα significantly impaired cancer cell growth, migration, invasion and anchorage-independent growth in both MCF7 and MCF7-Cd cells, cadmium-exposed cells retained a significant advantage in cell growth, migration, and invasion, and partially circumvented the loss of ERα. ERα knockout in MCF7 and MCF7-Cd cells significantly reduced the expression of classical ERα-regulated genes, while non-classical ERα-regulated genes were less impacted by the loss of ERα in MCF7-Cd cells. This is the first study to show that chronic cadmium exposure, even at low levels, can increase the malignancy of breast cancer cells by decreasing their dependency on ERα and increasing the adaptability of the cancer cells.
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