Epidemiologic studies have implicated estrogenic exposure as well as human papilloma virus (HPV) infection in cervical carcinogenesis, and some studies have suggested that estrogen and HPV may play synergistic roles in cervical tumorigenesis. In this study, we report a novel finding that ∼35% of cervical carcinomas tested (n = 19) express aromatase, the enzyme responsible for converting androgen to estrogen, the rate-limiting and final step in estrogen biosynthesis. On the other hand, no aromatase expression was detected in precancerous (n = 42) or normal cervical (n = 17) tissue samples. Increased aromatase was associated with increases in estrogen receptors (ER-α and ER-β) and a decrease in progesterone receptor levels, suggesting that in situ estrogen signaling via ER may be involved in tumor growth. Stable overexpression of aromatase in HPV+ cervical cancer cells resulted in increased cellular proliferation, anchorage-independent growth, and ER expression and activity. In contrast, little change in ER was observed in HPV+ cells. Steroid hormone receptor expression observed in vitro paralleled that seen in cervical carcinomas expressing aromatase. Aromatase overexpression also induced the expression of cyclin D1, proliferating cell nuclear antigen, and the HPV oncogenes, E6 and E7. Furthermore, the data underscores the importance of steroid receptor (estrogen and progesterone receptors) regulation in cervical carcinogenesis. To our knowledge, this is the first report demonstrating the induction of aromatase expression in cervical carcinomas, and opens the possibility that aromatase inhibitors may be potential therapeutic agents in cervical carcinomas expressing aromatase.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research