Post-transcriptional regulation, via 5′-UTRs (5′-untranslated regions), plays an important role in the control of eukaryotic gene expression. Recent analyses of the mammalian transcriptome suggest that most of the genes express multiple alternative 5′-UTRs and inappropriate expression of these regions has been shown to contribute to the development of carcinogenesis. The present review will focus on the complex post-transcriptional regulation of ERβ (oestrogen receptor β) expression. In particular, results from our laboratory suggest that the expression of alternative 5′-UTRs plays a key role in determining the level of ERβ protein expression. We have also shown that these alternative ERβ 5′-UTRs have a tissue-specific distribution and are differentially expressed between various normal and tumour tissues. Our results also suggest that alternative 5′-UTRs can influence downstream splicing events, thereby perhaps affecting ERβ function. These results suggest that alternative 5′-UTRs may have an overall influence on ER activity and this may have important implications for our understanding of cancer biology and treatment.

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