Synergistic control of sex hormones by 17β-HSD type 7: a novel target for estrogen-dependent breast cancer

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17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (17β-HSD) type 1 is known as a critical target to block the final step of estrogen production in estrogen-dependent breast cancer. Recent confirmation of the role of dyhydroxytestosterone (DHT) in counteracting estrogen-induced cell growth prompted us to study the reductive 17β-HSD type 7 (17β-HSD7), which activates estrone while markedly inactivating DHT. The role of DHT in breast cancer cell proliferation is demonstrated by its independent suppression of cell growth in the presence of a physiological concentration of estradiol (E2). Moreover, an integral analysis of a large number of clinical samples in Oncomine datasets demonstrated the overexpression of 17β-HSD7 in breast carcinoma. Inhibition of 17β-HSD7 in breast cancer cells resulted in a lower level of E2 and a higher level of DHT, successively induced regulation of cyclinD1, p21, Bcl-2, and Bik, consequently arrested cell cycle in the G0/G1 phase, and triggered apoptosis and auto-downregulation feedback of the enzyme. Such inhibition led to significant shrinkage of xenograft tumors with decreased cancer cell density and reduced 17β-HSD7 expression. Decreased plasma E2 and elevated plasma DHT levels were also found. Thus, the dual functional 17β-HSD7 is proposed as a novel target for estrogen-dependent breast cancer by regulating the balance of E2 and DHT. This demonstrates a conceptual advance on the general belief that the major role of this enzyme is in cholesterol metabolism.

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