A Recombinant Cell Bioassay for Detecting Inhibitors/ Activators of Estrogen Receptors Alpha and Beta

Tech ID: 32307 / UC Case 2016-717-0


Researchers at the University of California, Davis have developed a recombinant human ovarian cell line that expresses both alpha and beta estrogen receptors and contains an estrogen-responsive, firefly luciferase reporter gene.

Full Description

Endocrine disruptors - particularly those chemicals that affect the estrogen receptor (ER) pathway – are found commonly in nature, many foods and a variety of consumer products. These disruptors pose a significant health concern for humans and animals. The structural diversity of these disruptors, as well as the broad spectrum of estrogenic chemicals, is only now being determined and examined more closely. However, this research is limited currently by the lack of rapid detection systems needed to identify these chemicals. Optimal assay systems should not only be rapid and inexpensive, but should also be able to assess the effect of a chemical on as many target sites as possible. This improvement would allow analysis of the chemicals’ mechanism of action on more target sites simultaneously.

A previously developed bioassay was approved by both the USEPA and OECD, and has been used successfully internationally. However, this assay contains only one of the two known estrogen receptors. While both receptors can potentially be activated by the same compounds, they can also be activated by different chemicals. Thus, there is a need for a cell bioassay that expresses both functional forms of the estrogen receptor, and can respond to a broader range of estrogenic chemicals.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis have developed a recombinant human ovarian cell line that expresses both alpha and beta ER receptors and contains an ER-responsive firefly luciferase reporter gene. This cell-based bioassay detects compounds that impact the estrogen receptor signaling pathway for both alpha and beta receptors, and responds to estrogenic chemicals in a time-, dose-, and chemical-specific manner. Moreover, anti-estrogenic chemicals can also be detected. This bioassay expresses the two functional forms of the estrogen receptor and can respond to a broad range of estrogenic chemicals.


  • Detection system for estrogenic disrupting chemicals 
  • Estimate relative estrogenic potency of a target


  • Can detect chemical disruption in both alpha and beta estrogen receptors 
  • Rapid and inexpensive screening


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  • Brennan, Jennifer
  • Denison, Michael S.

Other Information


Endocrine disruptors, Estrogenic, Chemicals, Anti-estrogenic, Receptor, Signaling pathway

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