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Breast Cancer Res. 2006;8(4):R37.

MUC1 alters oncogenic events and transcription in human breast cancer cells.

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  • 1Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic Arizona, Scottsdale, AZ 85259, USA.



MUC1 is an oncoprotein whose overexpression correlates with aggressiveness of tumors and poor survival of cancer patients. Many of the oncogenic effects of MUC1 are believed to occur through interaction of its cytoplasmic tail with signaling molecules. As expected for a protein with oncogenic functions, MUC1 is linked to regulation of proliferation, apoptosis, invasion, and transcription.


To clarify the role of MUC1 in cancer, we transfected two breast cancer cell lines (MDA-MB-468 and BT-20) with small interfering (si)RNA directed against MUC1 and analyzed transcriptional responses and oncogenic events (proliferation, apoptosis and invasion).


Transcription of several genes was altered after transfection of MUC1 siRNA, including decreased MAP2K1 (MEK1), JUN, PDGFA, CDC25A, VEGF and ITGAV (integrin alphav), and increased TNF, RAF1, and MMP2. Additional changes were seen at the protein level, such as increased expression of c-Myc, heightened phosphorylation of AKT, and decreased activation of MEK1/2 and ERK1/2. These were correlated with cellular events, as MUC1 siRNA in the MDA-MB-468 line decreased proliferation and invasion, and increased stress-induced apoptosis. Intriguingly, BT-20 cells displayed similar levels of apoptosis regardless of siRNA, and actually increased proliferation after MUC1 siRNA.


These results further the growing knowledge of the role of MUC1 in transcription, and suggest that the regulation of MUC1 in breast cancer may be more complex than previously appreciated. The differences between these two cell lines emphasize the importance of understanding the context of cell-specific signaling events when analyzing the oncogenic functions of MUC1, and caution against generalizing the results of individual cell lines without adequate confirmation in intact biological systems.

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