It is well known that breast carcinomas without estrogen receptor (ER) have a poor prognosis and do not respond to endocrine therapy. In analyzing the question of the lack of ER gene expression, we have considered the possibility that specific negative transcription factors are present in ER-negative breast cancers. Inside the P3 upstream promoter of human ER gene we identified a transcriptional regulatory sequence able to bind protein factors expressed in ER-negative MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. This sequence, lying between nucleotides -3258 to -3157, seems to be critical for inhibition of ER gene transcription. In fact, the selected sequence in the form of double-stranded DNA has been introduced into ER-negative breast cancer cells as 'decoy' cis elements showing the ability to remove the putative negative transcription factor(s) and to induce the reactivation of ER gene transcription. In addition, in transient transfection assays the selected sequence decreased the SV-40 promoted luciferase activity. Gel shift assays identified multiple DNA-protein interactions which specifically form in this region, and data from Southwestern experiments strongly suggested the presence of a specific protein expressed in MDA-MB-231 ER-negative, but not in MCF7 ER-positive cells
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