MCF-7 human breast cancer cell homogenates and subcellular organelles were submitted to isopycnic centrifugation on Percoll gradients to investigate the subcellular localization of triphenylethylene antiestrogen specific binding sites (AEBS). Electron microscopy revealed that gradient fractions coincident with the migration of [3H]tamoxifen-AEBS complexes were homogeneously represented by rough and smooth endoplasmic reticulum. Eighty percent of AEBS were localized in the endoplasmic reticulum [45,000 ± 4,000 sites/cell, mean ± S.D.), while 20% of these sites were also found in the nuclear fraction (12,000 ± 1,000 sites/cell, mean ± S.D.). A similar subcellular distribution of AEBS was observed in human breast cancer bioptic specimens. No differences in [3H]tamoxifen binding affinity between microsomal and nuclear AEBS were observed in MCF-7 and bioptic breast cancer. No major differences in microsomal AEBS levels were observed in the limited number of estrogen receptor-positive or -negative breast cancer specimens we have studied, whereas estrogen receptor-negative samples had higher levels of nuclear AEBS with respect to estrogen receptor-positive tumors. The presence of AEBS was also detected in the human serum of healthy and tumor-bearing subjects. The affinity and the binding specificity of serum AEBS were similar to those of intracellular AEBS. No differences in the levels of serum AEBS were observed between healthy and tumor-bearing subjects [19 ± 4 and 22 ± 4 pmoles/ml (mean ± S.D.) respectively. Human serum AEBS did not appear to be associated to lipoproteins, whereas it migrated as a 5.5 S sedimenting molecule.
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