Breast cancer is a common malignant disease, which may be caused by a number of genes deregulated by genomic or epigenomic events. Deregulated WNT/β-catenin signaling with accumulation of β-catenin is common in breast tumors, but mutations in WNT signaling pathway components have been rare. An aberrantly spliced internally truncated LRP5 receptor (LRP5Δ666–809, LRP5Δ) was shown recently to be resistant to DKK1 inhibition, and was required for β-catenin accumulation in hyperparathyroid tumors and parathyroid tumor growth.
Here we show, by reverse transcription PCR and Western blot analysis, that LRP5Δ is frequently expressed in breast tumors of different cancer stage (58–100%), including carcinoma in situ and metastatic carcinoma. LRP5Δ was required in MCF7 breast cancer cells for the non-phosphorylated active β-catenin level, transcription activity of β-catenin, cell growth in vitro, and breast tumor growth in a xenograft SCID mouse model. WNT3 ligand, but not WNT1 and WNT3A augmented the endogenous β-catenin activity of MCF7 cells in a DKK1-insensitive manner. Furthermore, an anti-LRP5 antibody attenuated β-catenin activity, inhibited cell growth, and induced apoptosis in LRP5Δ-positive MCF7 and T-47D breast cancer cells, but not in control cells.
Our results suggest that the LRP5Δ receptor is strongly implicated in mammary gland tumorigenesis and that its aberrant expression present an early event during disease progression. LRP5 antibody therapy may have a significant role in the treatment of breast cancer.