The cross-talk between estrogen receptor and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma in thyroid cancer


  • We thank Dr. Michael Mingzhao Xing for providing K1 cells and GlaxoSmithKline for the kind gifts of rosiglitazone.



Estrogen receptor (ER) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ) are associated with thyroid tumorigenesis and treatment. However, the interaction between them has not been studied.


The impact of ER over-expression or down-expression by DNA/small interfering RNA (siRNA) transfection, ERα agonists, and the ERβ agonist diarylpropiolnitrile (DPN) on PPARγ expression/activity was examined in papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) and anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC) cells. The effects of PPARγ modulation by rosiglitazone (RTZ), a PPARγ ligand, and of PPARγ siRNA on ER expression were determined. Cellular functions reflected by cell proliferation and migration were assayed. Apoptosis was analyzed by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick-end labeling, and apoptotic-related proteins were evaluated by Western blot analysis.


PPARγ protein and activity were reduced by the over-expression of either ERα or ERβ, whereas repression of ERα or ERβ increased PPARγ expression. The administration of RTZ counteracted the effects of ER and also reduced their expression, particularly in PTC cells. Moreover, knockdown of PPARγ increased ER expression and activity. Functionally, ERα activation offset the inhibitory effect of PPARγ on cellular functions, but ERβ activation aggregated it and induced apoptosis, particularly in PTC cells. Finally, the interaction between ERβ and PPARγ enhanced the expression of proapoptotic molecules, such as caspase-3 and apoptosis-inducing factor.


This study provides evidence supporting a cross-talk between ER and PPARγ. The reciprocal interaction between PPARγ and ERβ significantly inhibits the proliferation and migration of thyroid cancer cells, providing a new therapeutic strategy against thyroid cancer. Cancer 2014;120:142–153. © 2013 American Cancer Society.