1. Center for Gender-Specific Medicine, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy
2. Core facilities, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy
# Equal senior authorship
Background: Gender differences in melanoma incidence, metastasis formation and disease progression are increasingly evident in epidemiological studies, with women showing significantly better survival than men. Among factors possibly underlying the disparities, sex hormones seem to play a key role. Nonetheless, functional mechanisms are still unclear, except for the antitumor ability of Estrogen Receptor (ER) β, whose expression determination has often been suggested for melanoma prognosis. In this study, we aimed at evaluating the molecular mechanisms and functional effects associated with ERβ signaling by using its agonist LY500307.
Methods: We evaluated the antitumor effect of the specific synthetic ERβ agonist LY500307 on some human melanoma cell lines, selected for different genetic background, expression levels of ERs and tumor progression. The expression of α and β estrogen receptors was investigated taking advantage of The Cancer Genome Atlas database and confirmed on some selected melanoma cell lines. The biological effects of LY500307 were determined in vitro looking at melanoma cell proliferation, cell cycle profiles and migration demonstrating by western blot the involvement of some pathway specific markers. The LY500307-dependent induction of cell death was also analyzed by flow cytometry and western blot analysis of caspase 3 and poly adenosine diphosphate-ribose polymerase (PARP).
Results: A significant decrease in the expression of both ERs, even more pronounced for ERα, has been found in patients with metastatic NRAS mutation. Treatment with LY500307 significantly reduced the proliferation of melanoma cells showing a cell cycle arrest at the G2/M boundary phase and promoting apoptosis with different sensitivities associated with disease stage and mutation. Indeed, the ERβ agonist affects melanoma migration, inducing a reversion of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition, more evident in a low aggressive primary melanoma cell line.
Conclusion: These results demonstrate the capability of LY500307 to reduce melanoma malignancy, counteracting cell viability and dissemination, overall suggesting a possible future use of LY500307 in personalized combined therapy.
Keywords: melanoma, LY500307, Estrogen Receptors, cell cycle, apoptosis.