Autoantibodies specific to estrogen receptor alpha act as estrogen agonists and their levels correlate with breast cancer cell proliferation

Angela Maselli, Sara Capoccia, Patrizia Pugliese, Carla Raggi, Francesca Cirulli, Alessandra Fabi, Walter Malorni, Marina Pierdominici, Elena Ortona

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Estrogen receptors have recently been demonstrated at the cell surface. Unlike nuclear receptors, they are able to trigger rapid responses inside the cells. In this study, we evaluated the presence and the possible role of autoantibodies specific to estrogen receptor (anti-ER Abs) in the peripheral blood of breast cancer patients. Anti-ERα Abs were detectable in 22/48 (46%) patients' sera and their levels positively correlated with the percentage of Ki-67-positive breast cancer cells. Anti-ERα Abs purified from breast cancer patients' sera were able: (i) to recognize ERα epitopes expressed at the cell surface of ER-positive breast cancer cells, (ii) to trigger rapid extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) phosphorylation, and (iii) to induce cell proliferation. Our results suggest that anti-ERα Abs can act as estrogen agonists playing a pathogenetic role as breast cancer-promoting factors. These autoantibodies could also be considered as possible peripheral blood biomarkers indicative of the breast cancer growth potential.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1074375
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016



  • Journal Article

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