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PLoS One. 2011;6(7):e21589. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0021589. Epub 2011 Jul 6.

Similar NF-κB gene signatures in TNF-α treated human endothelial cells and breast tumor biopsies.

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  • 1INSERM U965, Paris, France.



Endothelial dysfunction has been implicated in the pathogenesis of diverse pathologies ranging from vascular and immune diseases to cancer. TNF-α is one of the mediators of endothelial dysfunction through the activation of transcription factors, including NF-κB. While HUVEC (macrovascular cells) have been largely used in the past, here, we documented an NF-κB gene signature in TNFα-stimulated microvascular endothelial cells HMEC often used in tumor angiogenesis studies.


We measured mRNA expression of 55 NF-κB related genes using quantitative RT-PCR in HUVEC and HMEC. Our study identified twenty genes markedly up-regulated in response to TNFα, including adhesion molecules, cytokines, chemokines, and apoptosis regulators, some of them being identified as TNF-α-inducible genes for the first time in endothelial cells (two apoptosis regulators, TNFAIP3 and TNFRSF10B/Trail R2 (DR5), the chemokines GM-CSF/CSF2 and MCF/CSF1, and CD40 and TNF-α itself, as well as NF-κB components (RELB, NFKB1 or 50/p105 and NFKB2 or p52/p100). For eight genes, the fold induction was much higher in HMEC, as compared to HUVEC. Most importantly, our study described for the first time a connection between NF-κB activation and the induction of most, if not all, of these genes in HMEC as evaluated by pharmacological inhibition and RelA expression knock-down by RNA interference. Moreover, since TNF-α is highly expressed in tumors, we further applied the NF-κB gene signature documented in TNFα-stimulated endothelial cells to human breast tumors. We found a significant positive correlation between TNF and the majority (85 %) of the identified endothelial TNF-induced genes in a well-defined series of 96 (48 ERα positive and 48 ERα negative) breast tumors.


Taken together these data suggest the potential use of this NF-κB gene signature in analyzing the role of TNF-α in the endothelial dysfunction, as well as in breast tumors independently of the presence of ERα.

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