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Oncogene. 2010 Mar 11;29(10):1509-18. doi: 10.1038/onc.2009.434. Epub 2009 Nov 30.

Proteasome inhibition represses ERalpha gene expression in ER+ cells: a new link between proteasome activity and estrogen signaling in breast cancer.

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  • 1Department of Oncology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53705, USA.


Estrogen receptor-alpha (ERalpha) is a major therapeutic target of hormonal therapies in breast cancer, and its expression in tumors is predictive of clinical response. Protein levels of ERalpha are tightly controlled by the 26S proteasome; yet, how the clinical proteasome inhibitor, bortezomib, affects ERalpha regulation has not been studied. Bortezomib selectively inhibits the chymotrypsin-like activity of the proteasome. Unlike other laboratory proteasome inhibitors, bortezomib failed to stabilize ERalpha protein at a dose exceeding 90% inhibition of the chymotrypsin-like activity. Unexpectedly, however, chronic bortezomib exposure caused a reduction of ERalpha levels in multiple ER+ breast cancer cell lines. This response can be explained by the fact that bortezomib induced a dramatic decrease in ERalpha mRNA because of direct transcriptional inhibition and loss of RNA polymerase II recruitment on the ERalpha gene promoter. Bortezomib treatment resulted in promoter-specific changes in estrogen-induced gene transcription that related with occupancy of ERalpha and RNA polymerase II (PolII) on endogenous promoters. In addition, bortezomib inhibited estrogen-dependent growth in soft agar. These results reveal a novel link between proteasome activity and expression of ERalpha in breast cancer and uncover distinct roles of the chymotrypsin-like activity of the proteasome in the regulation of the ERalpha pathway.

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