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Cancer. 2011 Oct 1;117(19):4375-80. doi: 10.1002/cncr.26078. Epub 2011 Mar 28.

A galectin-3 sequence polymorphism confers TRAIL sensitivity to human breast cancer cells.

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Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA.



A common polymorphism, rs4644, coding for Pro64 or His64 of the carbohydrate-binding protein galectin-3, influences the susceptibility of galectin-3 to cleavage by matrix metalloproteinases and is associated with breast cancer incidence. Because forced expression of galectin-3 in a galectin-3 null breast cancer cell line confers sensitivity to tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL), the authors sought to determine whether the His64/Pro64 polymorphism of galectin-3 affects the sensitivity to TRAIL.


Genomic DNA of breast cell lines was analyzed for the single nucleotide polymorphism rs4644, and cytotoxicity was determined with the MTT assay.


When a collection of 9 breast cancer cell lines that express galectin-3 was examined for lectin, galactoside-binding, soluble, 3 (LGALS3) genotype and sensitivity to doxorubicin and TRAIL, doxorubicin sensitivity was not found to be related to LGALS3 genotype. In contrast, none of the 5 cell lines that were homozygous for Pro64 galectin-3 were found to be sensitive to TRAIL, but 2 of 2 homozygous His64 cell lines and 1 of 2 heterozygous His64 cell lines were sensitive to TRAIL. Forced expression of galectin-3 of defined genotype in galectin-3 null cells was used to more directly test the effect of the Pro64His mutation on TRAIL sensitivity. High levels of expression of His64 galectin-3 rendered BT549 cells sensitive to TRAIL and resistant to doxorubicin, but cells expressing Pro64 galectin-3 remained resistant to TRAIL and sensitive to doxorubicin.


The results of the current study indicate that the naturally occurring Pro64His mutation in galectin-3 increases sensitivity to death receptor-mediated apoptosis. This finding could be relevant to disparities in breast cancer outcomes across population groups, and could guide the design of future clinical trials of TRAIL-based therapies.

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