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Carcinogenesis. 2020 Jan 13. pii: bgaa002. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgaa002. [Epub ahead of print]

APOBEC3B expression in breast cancer cell lines and tumors depends on the estrogen receptor status.

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Laboratory of Translational Genomics, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.


Increased exposure to estrogen is associated with an elevated risk of breast cancer. Considering estrogen as a possible mutagen, we hypothesized that exposure to estrogen alone or in combination with the DNA-damaging chemotherapy drug, cisplatin, could induce expression of genes encoding enzymes involved in APOBEC-mediated mutagenesis. To test this hypothesis, we measured the expression of APOBEC3A (A3A) and APOBEC3B (A3B) genes in two breast cancer cell lines treated with estradiol, cisplatin, or their combination. These cell lines, T-47D (ER+) and MDA-MB-231 (ER-), differed by the status of the estrogen receptor (ER). Expression of A3A was not detectable in any conditions tested, while A3B expression was induced by treatment with cisplatin and estradiol in ER+ cells but was not affected by estradiol in ER- cells. In The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), expression of A3B was significantly associated with genotypes of a regulatory germline variant rs17000526 upstream of the APOBEC3 cluster in 116 ER- breast tumors (p= 0.006) but not in 387 ER+ tumors (p= 0.48). In conclusion, we show that in breast cancer cell lines, A3B expression was induced by estradiol in ER+ cells and by cisplatin regardless of ER status. In ER+ breast tumors, the effect of estrogen may be masking the association of rs17000526 with A3B expression, which was apparent in ER- tumors. Our results provide new insights into the differential etiology of ER+ and ER- breast cancer and the possible role of A3B in this process through a mitogenic rather than the mutagenic activity of estrogen.


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