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J Biol Chem. 2012 Jan 27;287(5):3292-300. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.315523. Epub 2011 Dec 8.

Regulation of sodium iodide symporter gene expression by Rac1/p38β mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathway in MCF-7 breast cancer cells.

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  • 1Molecular Endocrinology Laboratory, Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Los Angeles, California 90073, USA.


Activation of p38 MAPK is a key pathway for cell proliferation and differentiation in breast cancer and thyroid cells. The sodium/iodide symporter (NIS) concentrates iodide in the thyroid and lactating breast. All-trans-retinoic acid (tRA) markedly induces NIS activity in some breast cancer cell lines and promotes uptake of β-emitting radioiodide (131)I sufficient for targeted cytotoxicity. To identify a signal transduction pathway that selectively stimulates NIS expression, we investigated regulation by the Rac1-p38 signaling pathway in MCF-7 breast cancer cells and compared it with regulation in FRTL-5 rat thyroid cells. Loss of function experiments with pharmacologic inhibitors and small interfering RNA, as well as RT-PCR analysis of p38 isoforms, demonstrated the requirement of Rac1, MAPK kinase 3B, and p38β for the full expression of NIS in MCF-7 cells. In contrast, p38α was critical for NIS expression in FRTL-5 cells. Treatment with tRA or overexpression of Rac1 induced the phosphorylation of p38 isoforms, including p38β. A dominant negative mutant of Rac1 abolished tRA-induced phosphorylation in MCF-7 cells. Overexpression of p38β or Rac1 significantly enhanced (1.9- and 3.9-fold, respectively), the tRA-stimulated NIS expression in MCF-7 cells. This study demonstrates differential regulation of NIS by distinct p38 isoforms in breast cancer cells and thyroid cells. Targeting isoform-selective activation of p38 may enhance NIS induction, resulting in higher efficacy of (131)I concentration and treatment of breast cancer.

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