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Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2010 Aug;123(1):59-71. doi: 10.1007/s10549-009-0617-5. Epub 2009 Nov 10.

Gli1 promotes cell survival and is predictive of a poor outcome in ERalpha-negative breast cancer.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Kaul 640B, 1530 Third Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA.


Gli1 is a transcription factor and oncogene with documented roles in the progression of several cancer types, including cancers of the skin and pancreas. The contribution of Gli1 to the progression of breast cancer is less established. In order to investigate the functional impact of Gli1 in breast cancer, expression of Gli1 and its contribution to cell growth was assessed in breast cancer cell lines. These in vitro results were compared to expression of Gli1, determined by immunohistochemistry, in 171 breast cancers. In these cancers, the association of Gli1 with expression of estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha) and progesterone receptor (PR), ErbB2, p53, the rate of proliferation, and clinicopathologic parameters and outcome was assessed. Expression of Gli1 and ERalpha mRNA was strongly correlated in ERalpha-positive cell lines (r = 0.999). Treatment with estrogen increased expression of Gli1 in 2 of 3 ERalpha-positive cell lines; this increase was prevented by treatment with the ERalpha-specific antagonist MPP. Silencing of Gli1 by shRNA markedly reduced the survival of two ERalpha-negative cell lines, but caused only a modest reduction in ERalpha-positive cell lines. In breast cancer tissues, cancers with nuclear localization of Gli1 had a higher ERalpha (P=0.027) and lower p53 expression (P=0.017) than those without nuclear localization of Gli1. However, nuclear localization of Gli1 was predictive of a poorer cancer-specific survival in ERalpha-negative, including triple negative, cancers (P = 0.005), but not ERalpha-positive cancers. In conclusion, we demonstrate a positive association between expression of Gli1 and ERalpha; however, our data indicate a greater functional effect of Gli1 in ERalpha-negative cancers.

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