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Mol Endocrinol. 2011 Aug;25(8):1326-36. doi: 10.1210/me.2011-0045. Epub 2011 Jun 16.

The two-pore domain potassium channel KCNK5: induction by estrogen receptor alpha and role in proliferation of breast cancer cells.

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Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Houston, Houston, Texas 77204-5001, USA.


The growth of many human breast tumors requires the proliferative effect of estrogen acting via the estrogen receptor α (ERα). ERα signaling is therefore a clinically important target for breast cancer prevention and therapeutics. Although extensively studied, the mechanism by which ERα promotes proliferation remains to be fully established. We observed an up-regulation of transcript encoding the pH-sensitive two-pore domain potassium channel KCNK5 in a screen for genes stimulated by 17β-estradiol (E2) in the ERα(+) breast cancer cell lines MCF-7 and T47D. KCNK5 mRNA increased starting 1 h after the onset of E2 treatment, and protein levels followed after 12 h. Estrogen-responsive elements are found in the enhancer region of KCNK5, and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays revealed binding of ERα to the KCNK5 enhancer in E2-treated MCF-7 cells. Cells treated with E2 also showed increases in the amplitude of pH-sensitive potassium currents, as assessed by whole-cell recordings. These currents are blocked by clofilium. Although confocal microscopy suggested that most of the channels are located in intracellular compartments, the increase in macroscopic currents suggests that E2 treatment increases the number of active channels at the cell surface. Application of small interfering RNA specific for KCNK5 decreased pH-sensitive potassium currents and also reduced the estrogen-induced proliferation of T47D cells. We conclude that E2 induces the expression of KCNK5 via ERα(+) in breast cancer cells, and this channel plays a role in regulating proliferation in these cell lines. KCNK5 may therefore represent a useful target for treatment, for example, of tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer.

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