Background: The organochlorine dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), a known estrogen mimic and endocrine disruptor, has been linked to animal and human disorders. However, the detailed mechanism(s) by which DDT affects cellular physiology remains incompletely defined.
Objectives: We and others have shown that DDT activates cell-signaling cascades, culminating in the activation of estrogen receptor-dependent and -independent gene expression. Here, we identify a mechanism by which DDT alters cellular signaling and gene expression, independent of the estrogen receptor.
Methods: We performed quantitative polymerase chain reaction array analysis of gene expression in MCF-7 breast cancer cells using either estradiol (E2) or o,p´-DDT to identify distinct cellular gene expression responses. To elucidate the mechanisms by which DDT regulates cell signaling, we used molecular and pharmacological techniques.
Results: E2 and DDT treatment both altered the expression of many of the genes assayed, but up-regulation of vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA) was observed only after DDT treatment, and this increase was not affected by the pure estrogen receptor α antagonist ICI 182780. Furthermore, DDT increased activation of the HIF-1 response element (HRE), a known enhancer of the VEGFA gene. This DDT-mediated increase in HRE activity was augmented by the coactivator CBP (CREB-binding protein) and was dependent on the p38 pathway.
Conclusions: DDT up-regulated the expression of several genes in MCF-7 breast cancer cells that were not altered by treatment with E2, including VEGFA. We propose that this DDT-initiated, ER-independent stimulation of gene expression is due to DDT’s ability to initiate crosstalk between MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) signaling pathways and transcriptional coactivators.