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J Cell Biol. 2004 Oct 25;167(2):215-21. Epub 2004 Oct 18.

Loss of negative regulation by Numb over Notch is relevant to human breast carcinogenesis.

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Istituto Europeo di Oncologia, 20141 Milan, Italy.


The biological antagonism between Notch and Numb controls the proliferative/differentiative balance in development and homeostasis. Although altered Notch signaling has been linked to human diseases, including cancer, evidence for a substantial involvement of Notch in human tumors has remained elusive. Here, we show that Numb-mediated control on Notch signaling is lost in approximately 50% of human mammary carcinomas, due to specific Numb ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation. Mechanistically, Numb operates as an oncosuppressor, as its ectopic expression in Numb-negative, but not in Numb-positive, tumor cells inhibits proliferation. Increased Notch signaling is observed in Numb-negative tumors, but reverts to basal levels after enforced expression of Numb. Conversely, Numb silencing increases Notch signaling in normal breast cells and in Numb-positive breast tumors. Finally, growth suppression of Numb-negative, but not Numb-positive, breast tumors can be achieved by pharmacological inhibition of Notch. Thus, the Numb/Notch biological antagonism is relevant to the homeostasis of the normal mammary parenchyma and its subversion contributes to human mammary carcinogenesis.

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