Stat5 is a latent transcription factor that regulates essential growth and survival functions in normal cells. Constitutive activity of Stat5 and the involvement of its C-terminally truncated variant have been implicated in blood cell malignancies and mammary or breast cancer. To distinguish the individual contributions of the Stat5 variants to mammary tumorigenesis, global gene-expression profiling was performed on transgenic STAT5-induced tumors.
We identified 364 genes exhibiting differential expression in mammary tumors developed in transgenic mice expressing constitutively active STAT5 (STAT5ca) vs. its C-terminally truncated variant (STAT5Δ750). These genes mediate established Stat5 effects on cellular processes such as proliferation and cell death, as well as yet-unrelated homeostatic features, e.g. carbohydrate metabolism. A set of 14 genes linked STAT5Δ750 expression to the poorly differentiated carcinoma phenotype and STAT5ca to the highly differentiated papillary adenocarcinoma.
Specifically affected genes exhibited differential expression in an individual tumor set vs. its counterpart and the intact mammary gland: 50 genes were specifically affected by STAT5ca, and 94% of these were downregulated, the latter involved in suppression of tumor suppressors and proliferation antagonistics. This substantial downregulation distinguishes the STAT5ca-induced tumorigenic consequences from the relatively equal effect of the STAT5Δ750 on gene expression, which included significant elevation in the expression of oncogenes and growth mediators.
STAT5Δ750 mRNA expression was below detection levels in the tumors and the amount of STAT5ca transcript was not correlated with the expression of its specifically affected genes. Interestingly, we identified several groups of three to eight genes affected by a particular STAT5 variant with significant correlated expression at distinct locations in the clustergram.
The different gene-expression profiles in mammary tumors caused by the STAT5Δ750 and STAT5ca variants, corroborated by the absence of a direct link to transgenic STAT5 expression, imply distinct metabolic consequences for their oncogenic role which probably initiate early in tumor development. Tumorigenesis may involve induction of growth factor and oncogenes by STAT5Δ750 or suppression of tumor suppressors and growth antagonists by STAT5ca. The list of genes specifically affected by the STAT5 variants may provide a basis for the development of a marker set for their distinct oncogenic role.