Dissection of estrogen receptor alpha signaling pathways in osteoblasts using RNA-sequencing

Matthew M. Roforth, Elizabeth J. Atkinson, Ellis R. Levin, Sundeep Khosla, David G. Monroe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The effects of 17-β-estradiol in osteoblasts are primarily mediated by the nuclear transcription factors, estrogen receptor (ER)α and ERβ. ERs function through three general modes of action: DNA-binding dependent through estrogen response elements (EREs; designated nuclear ERE signaling); nuclear signaling via protein-protein interactions to other transcription factors (nuclear non-ERE signaling); and extra-nuclear signaling (membrane-bound functions of ERs). Identification of the specific transcriptional signatures regulated by each of these modes of action should contribute to an enhanced understanding of estrogen signaling in osteoblasts. To achieve this goal, we utilized specific mutations of ERa that eliminate the ability of the receptor to signal through a specific mode of action. The non-classical ERα knock-in (NERKI) mutation is incapable of signaling through direct DNA binding to EREs and the nuclear only ERα (NOER) mutation eliminates all membrane-localized signaling. Comparison of the gene expression patterns elicited by these mutations with the wild-type ERα (WT) pattern provides mode-specific data concerning transcriptional regulation by ERα. We expressed these constructs in the ER-negative osteoblastic cell line hFOB (-/+ estrogen) and performed global RNA-sequencing. Using a series of pairwise comparisons, we generated three lists of genes that were regulated either by the nuclear ERE-dependent, nuclear ERE-independent, or extra-nuclear actions of ERα. Pathway and gene ontology analyses revealed that genes regulated through the nuclear ERE and nuclear non-ERE pathways were largely involved in transcriptional regulation, whereas genes regulated through extra-nuclear mechanisms are involved in cytoplasmic signaling transduction pathways. We also intersected our data with genes linked to bone density and fractures from a recent genome-wide association study and found 25 of 72 genes (35%) regulated by estrogen. These data provide a comprehensive list of genes and pathways targeted by these specific modes of ERα action and suggest that "mode-specific" ligands could be developed to modulate specific ERα functionality in bone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere95987
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 28 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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