Tamoxifen but not 4-hydroxytamoxifen initiates apoptosis in p53(-) normal human mammary epithelial cells by inducing mitochondrial depolarization.


Journal Article

Despite the widespread clinical use of tamoxifen as a breast cancer prevention agent, the molecular mechanism of tamoxifen chemoprevention is poorly understood. Abnormal expression of p53 is felt to be an early event in mammary carcinogenesis. We developed an in vitro model of early breast cancer prevention to investigate how tamoxifen and 4-hydroxytamoxifen may act in normal human mammary epithelial cells (HMECs) that have acutely lost p53 function. p53 function was suppressed by retrovirally mediated expression of the human papillomavirus type 16 E6 protein. Tamoxifen, but not 4-hydroxytamoxifen, rapidly induced apoptosis in p53(-) HMEC-E6 cells as evidenced by characteristic morphologic changes, annexin V binding, and DNA fragmentation. We observed that a decrease in mitochondrial membrane potential, mitochondrial condensation, and caspase activation preceded the morphologic appearance of apoptosis in tamoxifen-treated early passage p53(-) HMEC-E6 cells. p53(-) HMEC-E6 cells rapidly developed resistance to tamoxifen-mediated apoptosis within 10 passages in vitro. Resistance to tamoxifen in late passage p53(-) HMEC-E6 cells correlated with an increase in mitochondrial mass and a lack of mitochondrial depolarization and caspase activation following tamoxifen treatment. We hypothesize that an early event in the induction of apoptosis by tamoxifen involves mitochondrial depolarization and caspase activation, and this may be important for effective chemoprevention.

Full Text

Cited Authors

  • Dietze, EC; Caldwell, LE; Grupin, SL; Mancini, M; Seewaldt, VL

Published Date

  • February 2001

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 276 / 7

Start / End Page

  • 5384 - 5394

PubMed ID

  • 11094056

Pubmed Central ID

  • 11094056

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1083-351X

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0021-9258

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1074/jbc.m007915200


  • eng