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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Apr 24;109(17):6584-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1113271109. Epub 2012 Apr 5.

ErbB receptor tyrosine kinase/NF-κB signaling controls mammosphere formation in human breast cancer.

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Division of Systems Biomedical Technology, Institute of Medical Science, University of Tokyo, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-8639, Japan.


Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in humans. However, our understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying tumorigenesis in breast tissues is limited. Here, we identified a molecular mechanism that controls the ability of breast cancer cells to form multicellular spheroids (mammospheres). We found that heregulin (HRG), a ligand for ErbB3, induced mammosphere formation of a breast cancer stem cell (BCSC)-enriched population as well as in breast cancer cell lines. HRG-induced mammosphere formation was reduced by treatment with inhibitors for phosphatidyl inositol 3-kinase (PI3K) or NF-κB and by expression of IκBα-Super Repressor (IκBαSR), a dominant-negative inhibitor for NF-κB. Moreover, the overexpression of IκBαSR in breast cancer cells inhibited tumorigenesis in NOD/SCID mice. Furthermore, we found that the expression of IL8, a regulator of self-renewal in BCSC-enriched populations, was induced by HRG through the activation of the PI3K/NF-κB pathway. These findings illustrate that HRG/ErbB3 signaling appears to maintain mammosphere formation through a PI3K/NF-κB pathway in human breast cancer.

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