Synthetic estrogen derivatives demonstrate the functionality of intracellular GPR30. Academic Article uri icon


  • Estrogen mediates its effects through multiple cellular receptors. In addition to the classical nuclear estrogen receptors (ERalpha and ERbeta), estrogen also signals through the seven-transmembrane G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) GPR30. Although estrogen is a cell-permeable ligand, it is often assumed that all GPCRs function solely as cell surface receptors. Our previous results showed that GPR30 appeared to be expressed predominantly in the endoplasmic reticulum. A critical question that arises is whether this localization represents the site of functional receptor. To address this question, we synthesized a collection of cell-permeable and cell-impermeable estrogen derivatives. We hypothesized that if functional GPR30 were expressed at the cell surface, both permeable and impermeable derivatives would show activity. However, if functional GPR30 were predominantly intracellular, like ERalpha, only the permeable ligands should show activity. Cell permeability was assessed using cells expressing ERalpha as a model intracellular estrogen-binding receptor. Our results reveal that despite exhibiting similar binding affinities for GPR30, only the cell-permeable ligands are capable of stimulating rapid calcium mobilization and phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) activation. We conclude that GPR30 expressed intracellularly is capable of initiating cellular signaling and that there is insufficient GPR30 expressed on the cell surface to initiate signaling in response to impermeable ligands in the cell lines examined. To our knowledge, this is the first definitive demonstration of a functional intracellular transmembrane estrogen receptor.

publication date

  • August 2007