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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Reversal of endocrine resistance in breast cancer: interrelationships among 14-3-3ζ, FOXM1, and a gene signature associated with mitosis

Anna Bergamaschi, Barbara L Christensen and Benita S Katzenellenbogen*

Author Affiliations

Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Illinois and College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign, 524 Burrill Hall, 407 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL, 61801, USA

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Breast Cancer Research 2011, 13:R70  doi:10.1186/bcr2913

Published: 29 June 2011

Abstract

Introduction

Despite the benefits of estrogen receptor (ER)-targeted endocrine therapies in breast cancer, many tumors develop resistance. 14-3-3 ζ/YWHAZ, a member of the 14-3-3 family of conserved proteins, is over-expressed in several types of cancer, and our previous work showed that high expression of 14-3-3ζ in ER-positive breast cancers was associated with a poor clinical outcome for women on tamoxifen. Therefore, we now probe the role of 14-3-3ζ in endocrine resistance, and we examine the functional dimensions and molecular basis that underlie 14-3-3ζ activities.

Methods

From analyses of four independent breast cancer microarray datasets from nearly 400 women, we characterized a gene signature that correlated strongly with high expression of 14-3-3ζ in breast tumors and examined its association with breast cancer molecular subtypes and clinical-pathological features. We investigated the effects of altering 14-3-3ζ levels in ER-positive, endocrine sensitive and resistant breast cancer cells on the regulation of 14-3-3ζ signature genes, and on cellular signaling pathways and cell phenotypic properties.

Results

The gene signature associated with high 14-3-3ζ levels in breast tumors encompassed many with functions in mitosis and cytokinesis, including aurora kinase-B, polo-like kinase-1, CDC25B, and BIRC5/survivin. The gene signature correlated with early recurrence and risk of metastasis, and was found predominantly in luminal B breast cancers, the more aggressive ER-positive molecular subtype. The expression of the signature genes was significantly decreased or increased upon reduction or overexpression of 14-3-3ζ in ER-positive breast cancer cells, indicating their coregulation. 14-3-3ζ also played a critical role in the regulation of FOXM1, with 14-3-3ζ acting upstream of FOXM1 to regulate cell division-signature genes. Depletion of 14-3-3ζ markedly increased apoptosis, reduced proliferation and receptor tyrosine kinase (HER2 and EGFR) signaling, and, importantly, reversed endocrine resistance.

Conclusions

This study reveals that 14-3-3ζ is a key predictive marker for risk of failure on endocrine therapy and serves a pivotal role impacting growth factor signaling, and promoting cell survival and resistance to endocrine therapies. Targeting 14-3-3ζ and its coregulated proteins, such as FOXM1, should prove valuable in restoring endocrine sensitivity and reducing risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Keywords:
estrogen receptor; antiestrogens; endocrine resistance; gene expression; 14-3-3ζ