Rapid activation of ERK1/2 and AKT in human breast cancer cells by cadmium

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Cadmium (Cd), an endocrine disruptor, can induce a variety of signaling events including the activation of ERK1/2 and AKT. In this study, the involvement of estrogen receptors (ER) in these events was evaluated in three human breast caner cell lines, MCF-7, MDA-MB-231, and SK-BR-3. The Cd-induced signal activation patterns in the three cell lines mimicked those exhibited in response to 17β-estradiol. Specifically, treatment of MCF-7 cells, that express ERα, ERβ and GPR30, to 0.5–10 μM Cd for only 2.5 min resulted in transient phosphorylation of ERK1/2. Cd also triggered a gradual increase and sustained activation of AKT during the 60 min treatment period. In SK-BR-3 cells, that express only GPR30, Cd also caused a transient activation of ERK1/2, but not of AKT. In contrast, in MDA-MB-231 cells, that express only ERβ, Cd was unable to cause rapid activation of either ERK1/2 or AKT. A transient phosphorylation of ERα was also observed within 2.5 min of Cd exposure in the MCF-7 cells. While the estrogen receptor antagonist, ICI 182,780, did not prevent the effect of Cd on these signals, specific siRNA against hERα significantly reduced Cd-induced activation of ERK1/2 and completely blocked the activation of AKT. It is concluded that Cd, like estradiol, can cause rapid activation of ERK1/2 and AKT and that these signaling events are mediated by possible interaction with membrane ERα and GPR30, but not ERβ.

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