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J Clin Invest. 2007 Aug;117(8):2205-15.

Src promotes estrogen-dependent estrogen receptor alpha proteolysis in human breast cancer.

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Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute and Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida 33136, USA.


Estrogen drives both transcriptional activation and proteolysis of estrogen receptor alpha (ER alpha; encoded by ESR1). Here we observed variable and overlapping ESR1 mRNA levels in 200 ER alpha-negative and 50 ER alpha-positive primary breast cancers examined, which suggests important posttranscriptional ER alpha regulation. Our results indicate that Src cooperates with estrogen to activate ER alpha proteolysis. Inducible Src stimulated ligand-activated ER alpha transcriptional activity and reduced ER alpha t(1/2). Src and ER alpha levels were inversely correlated in primary breast cancers. ER alpha-negative primary breast cancers and cell lines showed increased Src levels and/or activity compared with ER alpha-positive cancers and cells. ER alpha t(1/2) was reduced in ER alpha-negative cell lines. In both ER alpha-positive and -negative cell lines, both proteasome and Src inhibitors increased ER alpha levels. Src inhibition impaired ligand-activated ER alpha ubiquitylation and increased ER alpha levels. Src siRNA impaired ligand-activated ER alpha loss in BT-20 cells. Pretreatment with Src increased ER alpha ubiquitylation and degradation in vitro. These findings provide what we believe to be a novel link between Src activation and ER alpha proteolysis and support a model whereby crosstalk between liganded ER alpha and Src drives ER alpha transcriptional activity and targets ER alpha for ubiquitin-dependent proteolysis. Oncogenic Src activation may promote not only proliferation, but also estrogen-activated ER alpha loss in a subset of ER alpha-negative breast cancers, altering prognosis and response to therapy.

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