The ESR2 gene encodes the estrogen receptor beta protein. Several studies have shown that genetic variants in the ESR2 gene are associated with a variety of clinical phenotypes. However, very little is known about the functional significance of ESR2 genetic variants. We used a bioinformatics approach to identify regions of the ESR2 promoter that is evolutionarily conserved across the genomes of several species. We resequenced 1.6 kb of the ESR2 gene which included 0.8 kb of the promoter, 0.3 kb of exon ON, and 0.5 kb of the following intron. We identified five single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the ESR2 promoter and one SNP in the intron. Phase analysis indicated that the SNPs likely exist in 11 different haplotypes. Three of the SNPs (rs8008187, rs3829768, rs35036378) were predicted to alter transcription factor binding sites in the ESR2 promoter. All three were detected only in African American subjects. The rs35036378 SNP was in the TATA box and was highly conserved across species. ESR2 promoter reporter assays in LNCaP and SKBR3 cell lines showed that the variant construct containing the rs35036378 SNP allele had approximately 50% less activity relative to the wild-type construct. We conclude that the rs35036378 SNP appears to cause a reduced promoter activity of the ESR2 gene.
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