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Mol Endocrinol. 2004 Dec;18(12):3064-75. Epub 2004 Aug 19.

Multiple kinase cascades mediate prolactin signals to activating protein-1 in breast cancer cells.

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  • 1Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Program, University of Wisconsin, 2015 Linden Drive, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


The importance of prolactin (PRL) in physiological proliferation and differentiation of the mammary gland, together with high levels of PRL receptors in breast tumors, the association of circulating PRL with incidence of breast cancer, and the recognition of locally produced PRL, point to the need for greater understanding of PRL actions in mammary disease. Although PRL has been shown to activate multiple kinase cascades in various target cells, relatively little is known of its signaling pathways in the mammary gland apart from the Janus kinase 2/ signal transducer and activator of transcription 5 pathway, particularly in tumor cells. Another potential effector is activating protein-1 (AP-1), a transcription complex that regulates processes essential for neoplastic progression, including proliferation, survival and invasion. We demonstrate that PRL activates AP-1 in MCF-7 cells, detectable at 4 h and sustained for at least 24 h. Although Janus kinase 2 and ERK1/2 are the primary mediators of PRL-induced signals, c-Src, phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase, protein kinase C, and other MAPKs contribute to maximal activity. PRL activation of these pathways leads to increased c-Jun protein and phosphorylation, JunB protein, and phosphorylation of c-Fos, elevating the levels of AP-1 complexes able to bind DNA. These active AP-1 dimers may direct expression of multiple target genes, mediating some of PRL's actions in mammary disease.

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