Background: Androgen receptor (AR) is widely expressed in ER+ breast cancers. Accumulated evidence showed that AR is a tumor suppressor in ERα+ breast cancers. Enzalutamide (ENZ), an AR antagonist, blocks AR signalling, and was reported to inhibit estrogen-driven tumor growth as effectively as tamoxifen. Hence, this study was performed to further examine the mechanism of action of ENZ in ERα+ breast cancers. Methods: The AR gene was knocked out using the CRISPR-Cas9 system. Four crRNAs targeting AR and trans-activating crRNA were co-transfected to Cas9-positive MCF7 and T47D cells, two ERα+ breast cancer cell lines with relatively low AR levels based on RNA seq. ESR1 knock down was performed using a lentivirus system. MCF7 and T47D cells were infected with the ESR1-shRNA lentivirus and selected by puromycin for 2 weeks. Single clones of knockdown or knockout cells were tested using western blot. MCF7 and T47D cells were collected for RNA-seq and ChIP-seq after treated with DMSO or 10µM ENZ for 6 hours in complete medium. All sequences were aligned to the Human Reference Genome (hg38, UCSC). Differential gene expression was performed using limma package and upstream analysis was done in Ingenuity Pathway Analysis software. ChIP peaks were called using MACS2 and overlapping was analyzed using ChIPpeakAnno package in R. Tritium labeled ENZ or estradiol were incubated with ERα overnight. The bound radioactivity was measured using a Beckmann LS 6500 liquidscintillation counter. Results: We found the cell growth inhibition effect of ENZ was little impaired by AR gene knock out in MCF7 and T47D cells as was expected. As ENZ has been shown to inhibit estrogen-driven tumor growth, we performed studies to understand the mechanism of ENZ.We performed RNA-seq and identified 193 differential expressed genes (76 up and 117 down) between DMSO and ENZ-treated MCF7 cells (FC>2 or <0.5, FDR<0.05). Upstream analysis showed that ESR1 might be the upstream regulator of those differentially expressed genes and ESR1 signaling was predicted to be inhibited after ENZ treatment (P=1.69×10-10). To examine the alteration of ERα genomic binding, we performed global ERα ChIP-seq and found 39.58% (8,681/21,933) of ERα-bound sites were abolished by ENZ and the binding intensity was significantly decreased upon ENZ treatment in 12,868 shared peaks. Moreover, radiolabled binding assays showed that ENZ displaced estrogen binding to ERα and directly bound to ERα with a KD= 399.60nM. We further observed a reduction of proliferation inhibition of ENZ in ESR1-KD cells compared with control cells. This suggests that ENZ inhibits ER+ cell growth by displacing E2 from ERα binding sites and subsequently diminishes ERα genomic binding and blocks ERα signaling in ER+ cancers. Conclusion: We found that enzalutamide inhibits cell growth not through AR but by antagonizing ERα activity in MCF7 and T47D ER+ cells. These results reveal ER is the main factor affecting enzalutamide efficacy in these two ERα+ breast cancer cell lines. Further clinical trials are needed to investigate AR antagonists in ERα+ breast cancers.

Citation Format: Lixuan Wei, Jia Yu, Huanyao Gao, Huan Zhang, Thanh Nguyen, Yayun Gu, Richard M. Weinshilboum, James N. Ingle, Liewei Wang. Estrogen receptor is a target of enzalutamide in ER+ breast cancer [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 2021 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium; 2021 Dec 7-10; San Antonio, TX. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2022;82(4 Suppl):Abstract nr PD1-03.