Niacin activates the G protein estrogen receptor (GPER)-mediated signalling

Maria Francesca Santolla, Ernestina Marianna De Francesco, Rosamaria Lappano, Camillo Rosano, Sergio Abonante, Marcello Maggiolini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nicotinic acid, also known as niacin, is the water soluble vitamin B3 used for decades for the treatment of dyslipidemic diseases. Its action is mainly mediated by the G protein-coupled receptor (GPR) 109A; however, certain regulatory effects on lipid levels occur in a GPR109A-independent manner. The amide form of nicotinic acid, named nicotinamide, acts as a vitamin although neither activates the GPR109A nor exhibits the pharmacological properties of nicotinic acid. In the present study, we demonstrate for the first time that nicotinic acid and nicotinamide bind to and activate the GPER-mediated signalling in breast cancer cells and cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs). In particular, we show that both molecules are able to promote the up-regulation of well established GPER target genes through the EGFR/ERK transduction pathway. As a biological counterpart, nicotinic acid and nicotinamide induce proliferative and migratory effects in breast cancer cells and CAFs in a GPER-dependent fashion. Moreover, nicotinic acid prevents the up-regulation of ICAM-1 triggered by the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF-α and stimulates the formation of endothelial tubes through GPER in HUVECs. Together, our findings concerning the agonist activity for GPER displayed by both nicotinic acid and nicotinamide broaden the mechanisms involved in the biological action of these molecules and further support the potential of a ligand to induce different responses mediated in a promiscuous manner by distinct GPCRs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1466-1475
Number of pages10
JournalCellular Signalling
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Breast cancer cells
  • Cancer-associated fibroblasts
  • GPER
  • Nicotinamide
  • Nicotinic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Medicine(all)


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