To determine the hormone-dependence of a tumor, it is preferable to use highly specific radiolabeled ligands when available, since often more than one class of steroid hormone receptor is present in the tissue specimen, and interference from classes other than the one under study cannot be readily eliminated. In this study, we describe a simple in vitro system used to define the molecular requirements for a highly specific interaction between a steroid and the receptor corresponding to a single class of hormone. It is based on the use of homogenate or crude 105,000 × g supernatant prepared from the target organs considered as end points in routine biological potency tests and on the use of available radioligands not bound by plasma proteins (tags) to single out the receptors. For each receptor singled out in the target organ cytoplasm, the ability of over 700 molecules to decrease bound radioactivity was compared to that of the natural hormone (relative binding affinity) with the use of a dextran-coated charcoal technique to separate bound from unbound steroid. On the basis of the results on 81 molecules, presented in this study, the effect of various substituents on the affinity and specificity of the natural hormones was determined. Molecules interacting markedly with several receptors were submitted to X-ray crystallography in order to establish whether overlap between the various conformations of the natural hormone and of the test molecule might not partly account for lack of specificity.


Presented at the John E. Fogarty International Center Conference on Hormones and Cancer, March 29 to 31, 1978. Bethesda, Md.

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