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Neoplasia. 2004 Nov-Dec;6(6):786-95.

Silencing of the HER2/neu gene by siRNA inhibits proliferation and induces apoptosis in HER2/neu-overexpressing breast cancer cells.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medical School, J. W. Goethe University, Theodor-Stern-Kai 7, Frankfurt 60590, Germany.


In eukaryotes, double-stranded (ds) RNA induces sequence-specific inhibition of gene expression referred to as RNA interference (RNAi). We exploited RNAi to define the role of HER2/neu in the neoplastic proliferation of human breast cancer cells. We transfected SK-BR-3, BT-474, MCF-7, and MDA-MB-468 breast cancer cells with short interfering RNA (siRNA) targeted against human HER2/neu and analyzed the specific inhibition of HER2/neu expression by Northern and Western blots. Transfection with HER2/neu-specific siRNA resulted in a sequence-specific decrease in HER2/neu mRNA and protein levels. Moreover, transfection with HER2/neu siRNA caused cell cycle arrest at G0/G1 in the breast cancer cell lines SK-BR-3 and BT-474, consistent with a powerful RNA silencing effect. siRNA treatment resulted in an antiproliferative and apoptotic response in cells overexpressing HER2/neu, but had no influence in cells with almost no expression of HER2/neu proteins like MDA-MB-468 cells. These data indicate that HER2/neu function is essential for the proliferation of HER2/neu-overexpressing breast cancer cells. Our observations suggest that siRNA targeted against human HER2/neu may be valuable tools as antiproliferative agents that display activity against neoplastic cells at very low doses.

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