Estrogenic phenol and catechol metabolites of PCBs modulate catechol-O-methyltransferase expression via the estrogen receptor: Potential contribution to cancer risk

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


  • PWL Ho
  • CE Garner
  • JWM Ho
  • KC Leung
  • ACY Chu
  • KHH Kwok
  • MHW Kung
  • LT Burka
  • SL Ho

Colleges, School and Institutes


Commercial PCB mixtures have been shown to induce liver tumors in female rats and this effect has been attributed to the effects of PCBs on estrogen metabolism. Catechol metabolites of PCBs are potent inhibitors of COMT activity and are likely to contribute significantly to reduced clearance of genotoxic catechol metabolites of estrogen. The effect of PCB metabolites on COMT expression in cultured cells was investigated to explore potential mechanisms by which PCB exposure alters catechol estrogen clearance. We hypothesize that estrogenic PCB metabolites may contribute to reduction of COMT expression via interaction with the estrogen receptor. To test this hypothesis, human MCF-7 cells were exposed to PCB analogues and the expression of COMT determined. Western blot analysis demonstrated that COMT protein levels were statistically significantly reduced by both the phenolic and the catechol compounds, an effect which was abolished by the anti-estrogen, ICI182780. The above suggests that COMT levels may be reduced by estrogenic PCB metabolites, via interactions between PCB metabolites and the ER. It supports the hypothesis that both phenolic and catechol metabolites of PCBs may contribute to PCB-mediated carcinogenesis through reduction of COMT levels and activities and subsequent reduction in clearance of endogenous and xenobiotic catechols.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-309
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Drug Metabolism
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2008


  • estrogen, COMT, carcinogenesis, xenobiotic catechols, PCB

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