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Biochem J. 2003 Oct 1;375(Pt 1):199-205.

The POU homeodomain protein OCT3 as a potential transcriptional activator for fibroblast growth factor-4 (FGF-4) in human breast cancer cells.

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Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, 67 College Street, Toronto, ON, Canada M5G 2M1.


The POU (representing a homeodomain protein family of which the founder members are Pit-1, Oct-1/2 and Unc-86) homeodomain protein OCT3/Oct-3 (where OCT stands for octamer-binding protein) is an embryonic transcription factor expressed in oocytes, embryonic stem and embryonic carcinoma cells. We have demonstrated previously that human breast cancer cells regain the ability to express OCT3 mRNA [Jin, Branch, Zhang, Qi, Youngson and Goss (1999) Int. J. Cancer 81, 104-112]. Antibodies against human OCT3 were not available when this study was conducted. By using a human OCT3-glutathione S-transferase fusion protein to affinity purify a polyclonal antibody against the mouse Oct-3, we obtained an antibody that enabled us to detect OCT3 in human breast cancer cells by Western-blot analysis. Thus we have now confirmed that OCT3 is expressed in human breast cancer cells but not in normal human breasts and in three other organs. When breast cancer cell lines were treated with all- trans -retinoic acid, OCT3 expression was repressed, associated with decreased cell proliferation. Although another POU protein Brn-3 has been shown to be a repressor for BRCA1 (breast-cancer susceptibility gene 1), OCT3 does not repress human or mouse BRCA1/Brca-1 promoters. However, OCT3 is capable of activating a fusion promoter containing the fibroblast growth factor-4 (FGF-4) enhancer element. In addition, we documented for the first time that human breast cancer cells express FGF-4 protein, and its expression could be inhibited by all- trans -retinoic acid. Furthermore, overexpressing OCT3 stimulated endogenous FGF-4 expression in MCF7 breast cancer cell line. These observations indicate that OCT3 protein is selectively expressed in human breast cancer cells, and its expression may be implicated in mammary gland tumorigenesis via up-regulating FGF-4 expression.

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