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Int J Cancer. 1999 Mar 31;81(1):98-103.

Expression profile of agonistic Smads in human breast cancer cells: absence of regulation by estrogens.

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Laboratory of Molecular Endocrinology, CHUL Research Center and Laval University, Qu├ębec, Canada.


Transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1) is a cytokine expressed by mammary cells. While TGF-beta1 can inhibit the proliferation of human breast cancer cells, many cell lines are unresponsive to it. To shed light on the mechanisms underlying resistance to TGF-beta1, we examined expression of the mediators of TGF-beta1 signaling in the mammary carcinoma cell lines MCF-7, T47D, ZR-75-1, BT-20, MDA-MB-231 and MDA-MB-468. The levels of mRNA encoding Smad2, 3 and 4 as well as the type II (TbetaRII) and type I (TbetaRI) membrane receptors were determined by Northern analysis and/or ribonuclease protection assays. Smad2 and Smad3 mRNAs were detected in all 6 cell lines examined, whereas Smad4 mRNA was not detected in MDA-MB-468 cells, which are known to harbor a homozygous deletion of the Smad4 gene. TbetaRI was expressed in all 6 cell lines, whereas TbetaRII was not detected in ZR-75-1 and T47D cells. Of the cell lines tested, only MCF-7 cells were growth-inhibited by TGF-beta1. In contrast, only MDA-MB-231 cells showed induction of the PAI-1 promotor in response to TGF-beta1. We also examined the regulation of Smad mRNA expression by estrogens and androgens in ZR-75-1 cells. Neither estradiol nor dihydrotestosterone affected Smad2, 3 or 4 mRNA levels in ZR-75-1 cells. These results indicate that the lack of response to TGF-beta1 in the breast cancer cell lines examined can be attributed to the absence of either TbetaRII or the Smad4 gene product. Moreover, we show that the proliferative and transcriptional responses to TGF-beta1 are dissociable and that Smad expression is not regulated by sex steroids in ZR-75-1 cells.

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