Mitochondrial localization of estrogen receptor β

Shao Hua Yang, Ran Liu, Evelyn J. Perez, Yi Wen, Stanley M. Stevens, Thomas Valencia, Anne Marie Brun-Zinkernagel, Laszlo Prokai, Yvonne Will, James Dykens, Peter Koulen, James W. Simpkins

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Estrogen receptors (ERs) are believed to be ligand-activated transcription factors belonging to the nuclear receptor superfamily, which on ligand binding translocate into the nucleus and activate gene transcription. To date, two ERs have been identified: ERα and ERβ. ERα plays major role in the estrogen-mediated genomic actions in both reproductive and nonreproductive tissue, whereas the function of ERβ is still unclear. In this study, we used immunocytochemistry, immunoblotting, and proteomics to demonstrate that ERβ localizes to the mitochondria. In immunocytochemistry studies, ERβ was detected with two ERβ antibodies and found to colocalize almost exclusively with a mitochondrial marker in rat primary neuron, primary cardiomyocyte, and a murine hippocampal cell line. The colocalization of ERβ and mitochondrial markers was identified by both fluorescence and confocal microscopy. No translocation of ERβ into the nucleus on 17β-estradiol treatment was seen by using immunocytochemistry. Immunoblotting of purified human heart mitochondria showed an intense signal of ERβ, whereas no signals for nuclear and other organelle markers were found. Finally, purified human heart mitochondrial proteins were separated by SDS/PAGE. The 50,000-65,000 Mr band was digested with trypsin and subjected to matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometric analysis, which revealed seven tryptic fragments that matched with those of ERβ. In summary, this study demonstrated that ERβ is localized to mitochondria, suggesting a role for mitochondrial ERβ in estrogen effects on this important organelle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4130-4135
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number12
StatePublished - 23 Mar 2004


  • Mitochondria
  • Nuclear receptor


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