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J Cell Biochem. 2002;86(4):759-72.

Synergistic stimulation of MUC1 expression in normal breast epithelia and breast cancer cells by interferon-gamma and tumor necrosis factor-alpha.

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Department of Biological Sciences, The University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware 19716, USA.


The MUC1 gene encodes a transmembrane mucin glycoprotein that is overexpressed in human breast cancers. Persistent stimulation by proinflammatory cytokines may contribute to increased MUC1 transcription by tumor cells. We demonstrate that MUC1 expression in T47D breast cancer cells and normal human mammary epithelial cells (HMEC) is enhanced by tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) in the presence of interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma). MUC1 responsiveness to these cytokines was modest in T47D cells and robustly induced in HMEC. Transient transfection of T47D cells with mutant MUC1 promoter constructs revealed that a kappaB site at -589/-580 and the STAT-binding element at -503/-495 and were required for cooperative stimulation by TNFalpha and IFN-gamma. Binding of NFkappaB p65 to the MUC1 kappaB site was induced by TNF-alpha treatment, as demonstrated by electrophoretic mobility shift assay. Specific mutation of the kappaB site prevented binding of NFkappaB p65 and blocked TNF-alpha stimulation of MUC1 promoter activity. Collectively, these studies demonstrate synergistic stimulation of MUC1 expression by TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma that is mediated by independent actions of NFkappaB p65 and STAT1alpha upon kappaB and STAT sites, respectively, in the MUC1 promoter. Strong induction of MUC1 expression by these proinflammatory cytokines is clearly evident in normal mammary epithelium. In contrast, breast tumor cells appear to override normal regulatory responses via as yet undefined cis-elements.

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