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Oncogene. 2002 Mar 27;21(13):2066-78.

Identification of signal transduction pathways involved in constitutive NF-kappaB activation in breast cancer cells.

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Walther Oncology Center, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana, IN 46202, USA.


Nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) is usually maintained in an inactive form in the cytoplasm through its association with inhibitor of kappaB (IkappaB) proteins, and is activated upon stimulation of cells with a variety of signals. However, constitutive activation of NF-kappaB is observed in a number of cancers including breast cancer. The signaling pathways that are involved in constitutive NF-kappaB activation remain largely unknown. Using breast cancer cell lines derived from transgenic mice that overexpress specific oncogene/growth factors in the mammary gland, we show that heregulin but not her2/neu, c-Myc or v-Ha-ras plays a major role in constitutive NF-kappaB activation. Her2/neu potentiated tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha)-inducible NF-kappaB activation whereas c-Myc potentiated 12-o-tetracecanyolphorbol-13-acetate (TPA)-induced NF-kappaB activation. Heregulin-mediated NF-kappaB activation correlated with phosphorylation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and ErbB3 but not her2/neu. Tryphostin AG1517, which inhibits heregulin-mediated phosphorylation of EGFR, her2/neu and ErbB3 reduced NF-kappaB activation. In contrast, emodin, which blocks phosphorylation of her2/neu by heregulin, failed to reduce NF-kappaB activation. These results suggest that heregulin induces NF-kappaB independent of her2/neu. PI3 kinase/AKT, protein kinase A (PKA) and IkappaB kinase appear to be downstream signaling molecules involved in NF-kappaB activation as specific inhibitors of these kinases but not inhibitors of ERK/MAP kinase or protein kinase C reduced heregulin-mediated NF-kappaB activation. Based on these results, we propose that heregulin increases the expression of pro-invasive, pro-metastatic and anti-apoptotic genes in cancer cells through autocrine activation of NF-kappaB, which leads to invasive and drug-resistant growth of breast cancer.

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