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Int J Cancer. 1997 Jun 11;71(6):966-71.

Pro-protein convertase gene expression in human breast cancer.

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Department of Physiology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada.


As a first step towards elucidating the role that pro-protein convertases play in the growth regulation of breast cancer, we studied the gene expression of 6 known human convertase members (PC1/PC3, PC2, furin/PACE, PACE4, PC5/PC6 and PC7/LPC) in human breast cancer tumors and cell lines. PC1, furin, PACE4 and PC7 mRNAs were detected by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) amplification in all 7 human breast cancer cell lines and 30 breast tumor tissues tested. PC5 expression was detected in 2/30 tumor tissues. PC2 mRNA, however, was not detected. In situ hybridization localized furin mRNA to the tumor cells; adjacent fibrous stroma and blood vessel elements were negative for furin gene expression. Thirty breast tumors with varying quantities of estrogen and progesterone receptors were assayed for furin, PACE4 and PC1 mRNAs by quantitative RT-PCR, and 22 tumors were assayed for PC7 mRNA. An apparent association was observed only between PACE4 and estrogen receptors. No statistically significant correlation was found between the levels of steroid receptors and the expression of human furin, PCI and PC7 genes. Convertase mRNA levels appeared similar in both the estrogen-responsive and -unresponsive breast cancer cell lines. Also, proprotein convertase mRNAs were not detected in 9 histologically normal human breast tissues. These results suggest that elevated expression of some members of the pro-protein convertase gene family is a characteristic of human breast cancer, an event which may be important for human breast tumorigenesis.

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