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Breast Cancer Res. 2009;11(4):R60. doi: 10.1186/bcr2350. Epub 2009 Aug 11.

Dysregulated expression of Fau and MELK is associated with poor prognosis in breast cancer.

Author information

1
Institute for Science and Technology in Medicine and School of Life Sciences, Keele University, Huxley Building, Keele ST5 5BG, UK. m.r.pickard@biol.keele.ac.uk

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

Programmed cell death through apoptosis plays an essential role in the hormone-regulated physiological turnover of mammary tissue. Failure of this active gene-dependent process is central both to the development of breast cancer and to the appearance of the therapy-resistant cancer cells that produce clinical relapse. Functional expression cloning in two independent laboratories has identified Finkel-Biskis-Reilly murine sarcoma virus-associated ubiquitously expressed gene (Fau) as a novel apoptosis regulator and candidate tumour suppressor. Fau modifies apoptosis-controller Bcl-G, which is also a key target for candidate oncoprotein maternal embryonic leucine zipper kinase (MELK).

METHODS:

We have used RNA interference to downregulate Fau and Bcl-G expression, both simultaneously and independently, in breast cancer cells in vitro to determine the importance of their roles in apoptosis. Expression of Fau, Bcl-G and MELK was measured by quantitative RT-PCR in breast cancer tissue and in matched breast epithelial tissue from the same patients. Expression data of these genes obtained using microarrays from a separate group of patients were related to patient survival in Kaplan-Meier analyses.

RESULTS:

siRNA-mediated downregulation of either Fau or Bcl-G expression inhibited apoptosis, and the inhibition produced by combining the two siRNAs was consistent with control of Bcl-G by Fau. Fau expression is significantly reduced in breast cancer tissue and this reduction is associated with poor patient survival, as predicted for a candidate breast cancer tumour suppressor. In addition, MELK expression is increased in breast cancer tissue and this increase is also associated with poor patient survival, as predicted for a candidate oncogene. Bcl-G expression is reduced in breast cancer tissue but decreased Bcl-G expression showed no correlation with survival, indicating that the most important factors controlling Bcl-G activity are post-translational modification (by Fau and MELK) rather than the rate of transcription of Bcl-G itself.

CONCLUSIONS:

The combination of in vitro functional studies with the analysis of gene expression in clinical breast cancer samples indicates that three functionally interconnected genes, Fau, Bcl-G and MELK, are crucially important in breast cancer and identifies them as attractive targets for improvements in breast cancer risk prediction, prognosis and therapy.

PMID:
19671159
PMCID:
PMC2750122
DOI:
10.1186/bcr2350
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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