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J Biol Chem. 2010 Nov 26;285(48):37324-32. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.124388. Epub 2010 Sep 14.

Serine 59 phosphorylation of {alpha}B-crystallin down-regulates its anti-apoptotic function by binding and sequestering Bcl-2 in breast cancer cells.

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Unité de Biologie Fonctionnelle et Adaptative BFA EAC4413, Université Paris 7 Denis Diderot/CNRS, Laboratoire Stress et Pathologies du Cytosquelette, 4 rue Marie-Andrée Lagroua Weill-Hallé 75250 Paris Cedex 13, France.


The small heat shock protein (sHSP) αB-crystallin is a new oncoprotein in breast carcinoma that predicts poor clinical outcome in breast cancer. However, although several reports have demonstrated that phosphorylation of sHSPs modify their structural and functional properties, the significance of αB-crystallin phosphorylation in cancer cells has not yet been investigated. In this study, we have characterized the phosphorylation status of αB-crystallin in breast epithelial carcinoma cells line MCF7 submitted to anti-cancer agents like vinblastine. We have showed that the main phosphorylation site of αB-crystallin in response to vinblastine is serine 59 and determined a correlation between this post-translational modification and higher apoptosis level. The overexpression of the serine 59 "pseudophosphorylated" mutant (S59E) induces a significant increase in the apoptosis level of vinblastine-treated MCF7 cells. In contrast, overexpression of wild-type αB-crystallin or "nonphosphorylatable" mutant (S59A) result in a resistance to this microtubule-depolymerizing agent, while inhibition of endogenous levels of αB-crystallin by expression of shRNA lowers it. Analyzing further the molecular mechanism of this phenomenon, we report for the first time that phosphorylated αB-crystallin preferentially interacts with Bcl-2, an anti-apoptotic protein, and this interaction prevents the translocation of Bcl-2 to mitochondria. Hence, this study identifies serine 59 phosphorylation as an important key in the down-regulation of αB-crystallin anti-apoptotic function in breast cancer and suggests new strategies to improve anti-cancer treatments.

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