Background. Hormone receptor positive (HR+) breast cancers express the estrogen (ERα) and/or progesterone (PgR) receptors. Inherited single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in ESR1, the gene encoding ERα, have been reported to predict tamoxifen effectiveness. We hypothesized that these associations could be attributed to altered tumor gene/protein expression of ESR1/ERα, and that SNPs in the PGR gene predict tumor PGR/PgR expression. Patients and methods. Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded breast cancer tumor specimens were were analyzed for ESR1 and PGR gene transcript expression using the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) based Oncotype DX assay, and for ERα and PgR protein expression using immunohistochemistry (IHC) and an automated quantitative immunofluorescence assay (AQUA). Germline genotypes for SNPs in ESR1 (n=41) and PGR (n=8) were determined using allele specific Taqman assays. Results. One SNP in ESR1 (rs9322336) was significantly associated with ESR1 gene transcript expression (p=0.006) but not ERα protein expression (p>0.05). A PGR SNP (rs518162) was associated with decreased PGR gene transcript expression (p=0.003) and PgR protein expression measured by IHC (p=0.016), but not AQUA (p=0.054). There were modest, but statistically significant correlations between gene and protein expression for ESR1/ERα and PGR/PgR and for protein expression measured by IHC and AQUA (Pearson correlation=0.32-0.64, all p<0.001). Conclusions. Inherited ESR1 and PGR genotypes may affect tumor ESR1/ERα and PGR/PgR expression, respectively, which are moderately correlated. This work supports further research into germline predictors of tumor characteristics and treatment effectiveness, which may someday inform selection of hormonal treatments for patients with HR+ breast cancer.
- estrogen receptor
- progesterone receptor
- gene expression
- protein expression
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