G protein-coupled estrogen receptor (GPER) regulates mammary tumorigenesis and metastasis.
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The role of 17beta-estradiol (E2) in breast cancer development and tumor growth has traditionally been attributed exclusively to the activation of ERalpha. Although targeted inhibition of ERalpha is a successful approach for patients with ERalpha+ breast cancer, many patients fail to respond or become resistant to anti-estrogen therapy. The discovery of the G protein-coupled estrogen receptor (GPER1) suggested an additional mechanism through which E2 could exert its effects in breast cancer. Studies have demonstrated clinical correlations between GPER expression in human breast tumor specimens and increased tumor size, distant metastasis, and recurrence, as well as established a proliferative role for GPER in vitro; however, direct in vivo evidence has been lacking. To this end, a GPER null mutation [GPER knockout (KO)] was introduced, through interbreeding, into a widely used transgenic mouse model of mammary tumorigenesis [MMTV-PyMT (PyMT)]. Early tumor development, assessed by the extent of hyperplasia and proliferation, was not different between GPER wild-type/PyMT (WT/PyMT) and those mice harboring the GPER null mutation (KO/PyMT). However, by 12-13 weeks of age, tumors from KO/PyMT mice were smaller with decreased proliferation compared to those from WT/PyMT mice. Furthermore, tumors from the KO/PyMT mice were of histologically lower grade compared to tumors from their WT counterparts, suggesting less aggressive tumors in the KO/PyMT mice. Finally, KO/PyMT mice displayed dramatically fewer lung metastases compared to WT/PyMT mice. Combined, these data provide the first in vivo evidence that GPER plays a critical role in breast tumor growth and distant metastasis. Implications: This is the first description of a role for the novel G protein-coupled estrogen receptor GPER in breast tumorigenesis and metastasis, demonstrating that it represents a new target in breast cancer diagnosis, prognosis and therapy.Copyright © 2014, American Association for Cancer Research.