Interaction of the estrogen receptor/ligand complex with a DNA estrogen response element is known to regulate gene transcription. In turn, specific conformations of the receptor-ligand complex have been postulated to influence unique subsets of estrogen-responsive genes resulting in differential modulation and, ultimately, tissue-selective outcomes. The estrogen receptor ligands raloxifene and tamoxifen have demonstrated such tissue-specific estrogen agonist/antagonist effects. Both agents antagonize the effects of estrogen on mammary tissue while mimicking the actions of estrogen on bone. However, tamoxifen induces significant stimulation of uterine tissue whereas raloxifene does not. We postulate that structural differences between raloxifene and tamoxifen may influence the conformations of their respective receptor/ligand complexes, thereby affecting which estrogen-responsive genes are modulated in various tissues. These structural differences are 4-fold: (A) the presence of phenolic hydroxyls, (B) different substituents on the basic amine, (C) incorporation of the stilbene moiety into a cyclic benzothiophene framework, and (D) the imposition of a carbonyl “hinge” between the basic amine-containing side chain and the olefin. A series of raloxifene analogs that separately exemplify each of these differences have been prepared and evaluated in a series of in vitro and in vivo assays. This strategy has resulted in the development of a pharmacophore model that attributes the differences in effects on the uterus between raloxifene and tamoxifen to a low-energy conformational preference imparting an orthogonal orientation of the basic side chain with respect to the stilbene plane. This three-dimensional array is dictated by a single carbon atom in the hinge region of raloxifene. These data indicate that differences in tissue selective actions among benzothiophene and triarylethylene estrogen receptor modulators can be ascribed to discrete ligand conformations
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