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Cancer Res. 2006 Jun 1;66(11):5950-9.

Elevated expression of mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatase 3 in breast tumors: a mechanism of tamoxifen resistance.

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  • 1Breast Center and Department of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA.


Antiestrogen resistance is a major clinical problem in the treatment of breast cancer. Altered growth factor signaling with estrogen receptor (ER)-alpha is associated with the development of resistance. Gene expression profiling was used to identify mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) phosphatase 3 (MKP3) whose expression was correlated with response to the antiestrogen tamoxifen in both patients and in vitro-derived cell line models. Overexpression of MKP3 rendered ER-alpha-positive breast cancer cells resistant to the growth-inhibitory effects of tamoxifen and enhanced tamoxifen agonist activity in endometrial cells. MKP3 overexpression was associated with lower levels of activated extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) phosphorylation in the presence of estrogen but that estrogen deprivation and tamoxifen treatment decreased MKP3 phosphatase activity, leading to an up-regulation of pERK1/2 MAPK, phosphorylated Ser(118)-ER-alpha, and cyclin D1. The MAPK/ERK kinase inhibitor PD98059 blocked tamoxifen-resistant growth. Accumulation of reactive oxygen species was observed with tamoxifen treatment of MKP3-overexpressing cells, and antioxidant treatment increased MKP3 phosphatase activity, thereby blocking resistance. Furthermore, PD98059 increased the levels of phosphorylated c-Jun NH(2)-terminal kinase (JNK) in tamoxifen-treated MKP3-overexpressing cells, suggesting an interaction between MKP3 levels, activation of ERK1/2 MAPK, and JNK signaling in human breast cancer cells. MKP3 represents a novel mechanism of resistance, which may be a potential biomarker for the use of ERK1/2 and/or JNK inhibitors in combination with tamoxifen treatment.

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