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Estrogen regulates a plethora of functionally dissimilar processes in a broad range of tissues. Recent progress in the study of the molecular mechanism of action of estrogen(s) has revealed why different cells can respond to the same hormone in a different manner. Three of these findings are of particular importance: (i) There are two genetically and functionally distinct estrogen receptors that have distinct expression patterns in vivo; (ii) the positive and negative transcriptional activities of these receptors require them to engage transcription cofactors (coactivators or corepressors) in target cells; and (iii) not all cofactors are functionally equivalent, nor are they expressed in the same manner in all cells. Thus, although the estrogen receptor is required for a cell to respond to an estrogenic stimulus, the nature and extent of that response are determined by the proteins, pathways, and processes with which the receptor interacts.
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