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Tamoxifen-elicited uterotrophy: cross-species and cross-ligand analysis of the gene expression program

Joshua C Kwekel13, Agnes L Forgacs13, Lyle D Burgoon13, Kurt J Williams23 and Timothy R Zacharewski13*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA

2 Department of Pathobiology & Diagnostic Investigation, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA

3 Center for Integrative Toxicology and National Food Safety and Toxicology Center, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA

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BMC Medical Genomics 2009, 2:19  doi:10.1186/1755-8794-2-19

Published: 28 April 2009



Tamoxifen (TAM) is a well characterized breast cancer drug and selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM) which also has been associated with a small increase in risk for uterine cancers. TAM's partial agonist activation of estrogen receptor has been characterized for specific gene promoters but not at the genomic level in vivo.Furthermore, reducing uncertainties associated with cross-species extrapolations of pharmaco- and toxicogenomic data remains a formidable challenge.


A comparative ligand and species analysis approach was conducted to systematically assess the physiological, morphological and uterine gene expression alterations elicited across time by TAM and ethynylestradiol (EE) in immature ovariectomized Sprague-Dawley rats and C57BL/6 mice. Differential gene expression was evaluated using custom cDNA microarrays, and the data was compared to identify conserved and divergent responses. 902 genes were differentially regulated in all four studies, 398 of which exhibit identical temporal expression patterns.


Comparative analysis of EE and TAM differentially expressed gene lists suggest TAM regulates no unique uterine genes that are conserved in the rat and mouse. This demonstrates that the partial agonist activities of TAM extend to molecular targets in regulating only a subset of EE-responsive genes. Ligand-conserved, species-divergent expression of carbonic anhydrase 2 was observed in the microarray data and confirmed by real time PCR. The identification of comparable temporal phenotypic responses linked to related gene expression profiles demonstrates that systematic comparative genomic assessments can elucidate important conserved and divergent mechanisms in rodent estrogen signalling during uterine proliferation.