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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Obesity associated alterations in the biology of adipose stem cells mediate enhanced tumorigenesis by estrogen dependent pathways

Amy L Strong1, Thomas A Strong1, Lyndsay V Rhodes2, Julie A Semon1, Xiujuan Zhang1, Zhenzhen Shi1, Shijia Zhang14, Jeffrey M Gimble13, Matthew E Burow2 and Bruce A Bunnell14*

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine, Tulane University School of Medicine, 1430 Tulane Avenue, SL-99, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA

2 Department of Medicine, Section of Hematology and Medical Oncology, Tulane University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA

3 Stem Cell Biology Laboratory, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University System, Baton Rouge, LA 70808, USA

4 Department of Pharmacology, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA

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Breast Cancer Research 2013, 15:R102  doi:10.1186/bcr3569

Published: 31 October 2013

Abstract

Introduction

Obesity has been associated with increased incidence and mortality of breast cancer. While the precise correlation between obesity and breast cancer remains to be determined, recent studies suggest that adipose tissue and adipose stem cells (ASCs) influence breast cancer tumorigenesis and tumor progression.

Methods

Breast cancer cells lines were co-cultured with ASCs (n = 24), categorized based on tissue site of origin and body mass index (BMI), and assessed for enhanced proliferation, alterations in gene expression profile with PCR arrays, and enhanced tumorigenesis in immunocompromised mice. The gene expression profile of ASCs was assess with PCR arrays and qRT-PCR and confirmed with Western blot analysis. Inhibitory studies were conducted by delivering estrogen antagonist ICI182,780, leptin neutralizing antibody, or aromatase inhibitor letrozole and assessing breast cancer cell proliferation. To assess the role of leptin in human breast cancers, Oncomine and Kaplan Meier plot analyses were conducted.

Results

ASCs derived from the abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue of obese subjects (BMI > 30) enhanced breast cancer cell proliferation in vitro and tumorigenicity in vivo. These findings were correlated with changes in the gene expression profile of breast cancer cells after co-culturing with ASCs, particularly in estrogen receptor-alpha (ESR1) and progesterone receptor (PGR) expression. Analysis of the gene expression profile of the four groups of ASCs revealed obesity induced alterations in several key genes, including leptin (LEP). Blocking estrogen signaling with ICI182,780, leptin neutralizing antibody, or letrozole diminished the impact of ASCs derived from obese subjects. Women diagnosed with estrogen receptor/progesterone receptor positive (ER+/PR+) breast cancers that also expressed high levels of leptin had poorer prognosis than women with low leptin expression.

Conclusion

ASCs isolated from the abdomen of obese subjects demonstrated increased expression of leptin, through estrogen stimulation, which increased breast cancer cell proliferation. The results from this study demonstrate that abdominal obesity induces significant changes in the biological properties of ASCs and that these alterations enhance ER+/PR+ breast cancer tumorigenesis through estrogen dependent pathways.