Cell polarity plays a key role in development and is disrupted in tumors, yet the molecules and mechanisms that regulate polarity remain poorly defined. We found that the scaffolding adaptor GAB1 interacts with two polarity proteins, PAR1 and PAR3. GAB1 binds PAR1 and enhances its kinase activity. GAB1 brings PAR1 and PAR3 into a transient complex, stimulating PAR3 phosphorylation by PAR1. GAB1 and PAR6 bind the PAR3 PDZ1 domain and thereby compete for PAR3 binding. Consequently, GAB1 depletion causes PAR3 hypo-phosphorylation and increases PAR3/PAR6 complex formation, resulting in accelerated and enhanced tight junction formation, increased trans-epithelial resistance and lateral domain shortening. Conversely, GAB1 over-expression, in a PAR1/PAR3-dependent manner, disrupts epithelial apical-basal polarity, promotes multi-lumen cyst formation, and enhances growth factor-induced epithelial cell scattering. Our results identify GAB1 as a novel negative regulator of epithelial cell polarity that functions as a scaffold for modulating PAR protein complexes on the lateral membrane.
Identification of genes that are upregulated during mammary epithelial cell morphogenesis may reveal novel regulators of tumorigenesis. We have demonstrated that gene expression programs in mammary epithelial cells grown in monolayer cultures differ significantly from those in three-dimensional (3D) cultures. We identify a protein tyrosine phosphate, PTPRO, that was upregulated in mature MCF-10A mammary epithelial 3D structures but had low to undetectable levels in monolayer cultures. Downregulation of PTPRO by RNA interference inhibited proliferation arrest during morphogenesis. Low levels of PTPRO expression correlated with reduced survival for breast cancer patients, suggesting a tumor suppressor function. Furthermore, we showed that the receptor tyrosine kinase ErbB2/HER2 is a direct substrate of PTPRO and that loss of PTPRO increased ErbB2-induced cell proliferation and transformation, together with tyrosine phosphorylation of ErbB2. Moreover, in patients with ErbB2-positive breast tumors, low PTPRO expression correlated with poor clinical prognosis compared to ErbB2-positive patients with high levels of PTPRO. Thus, PTPRO is a novel regulator of ErbB2 signaling, a potential tumor suppressor, and a novel prognostic marker for patients with ErbB2-positive breast cancers. We have identified the protein tyrosine phosphatase PTPRO as a regulator of three-dimensional epithelial morphogenesis of mammary epithelial cells and as a regulator of ErbB2-mediated transformation. In addition, we demonstrated that ErbB2 is a direct substrate of PTPRO and that decreased expression of PTPRO predicts poor prognosis for ErbB2-positive breast cancer patients. Thus, our results identify PTPRO as a novel regulator of mammary epithelial transformation, a potential tumor suppressor, and a predictive biomarker for breast cancer.
The splicing-factor oncoprotein SRSF1 (also known as SF2/ASF) is upregulated in breast cancers. We investigated SRSF1’s ability to transform human and mouse mammary epithelial cells in vivo and in vitro. SRSF1-overexpressing COMMA-1D cells formed tumors, following orthotopic transplantation to reconstitute the mammary gland. In 3-D culture, SRSF1-overexpressing MCF-10A cells formed larger acini than control cells, reflecting increased proliferation and delayed apoptosis during acinar morphogenesis. These effects required the first RNA-recognition motif and nuclear functions of SRSF1. SRSF1 overexpression promoted alternative splicing of BIM and BIN1 isoforms that lack pro-apoptotic functions and contribute to the phenotype. Finally, SRSF1 cooperated specifically with MYC to transform mammary epithelial cells, in part by potentiating eIF4E activation, and these cooperating oncogenes are significantly co-expressed in human breast tumors. Thus, SRSF1 can promote breast cancer, and SRSF1 itself or its downstream effectors may be valuable targets for therapeutics development.
c-Myc is an oncogene transcription factor that causes cancer in many settings, including solid tumors that arise in the context of organized tissue structures. Given that disruption of tissue architecture frequently occurs in cancer, there is considerable interest in how cell organization impacts oncogene function. A previous report found that organization of mammary epithelial cells into defined 3-dimensional structures renders them insensitive to the effects of retrovirus-mediated overexpression of Myc, leading to the notion that organization tempers the sensitivity of individual cells to Myc activity. In this article, we report that epithelial cell organization does not profoundly alter Myc activity but, instead, suppresses Myc by modulating its expression. We show that the morphogenesis of mammary epithelial cells into organized acinar structures in vitro is accompanied by widespread changes in gene expression patterns, including a substantial decrease in the expression of Myc. Concomitant with the decrease in endogenous Myc expression, we observe a decrease in transcription from retroviral vectors during morphogenesis and find that Myc transgene expression in acini is much lower than in unorganized cells. This decrease in Myc transgene activity is responsible for the apparent recalcitrance of organized cells to ectopic Myc, as adenovirus-mediated expression of Myc in organized structures potently induces apoptosis. These observations reveal that organization does not alter the inherent response of epithelial cells to Myc and suggest that other tumor suppression mechanisms, apart from structure, antagonize Myc in the development of solid tumors.
The behavior of a cell is significantly influenced by its context. Epithelial cells derived from glandular organs such as the breast recreate their glandular organization when grown under 3D culture conditions. While traditional monolayer cultures are powerful tools to understand how cells proliferate, grow and respond to stress, they do not recreate the 3D property observed in vivo. Multiple studies demonstrate that 3D organization can reveal novel and unexpected insights into the mechanisms by which normal and tumorderived epithelial cells function. In the present article we comment on a study that reports identification of a RasV12-induced IL-6 signaling network in mammary epithelial cells in 3D cultures.
The activation of receptor tyrosine kinases, particularly ErbB2, plays an important role in the genesis of breast cancer. ErbB2 kinase activity promotes Ras-mediated stimulation of downstream protein kinase cascades, including the Ras/Raf-1/Mek/extracellular-signal regulated kinase (Erk) pathway, leading to tumor cell growth and migration. Signaling through the Ras-Erk pathway can be influenced by p21-activated kinase-1 (Pak1), an effector of the Rho family GTPases Rac and Cdc42. In this study, we asked if ErbB2 expression correlates with Pak1 and Erk activity in human breast cancer specimens, and if Pak1 signaling is required for ErbB2 transformation in a 3D in vitro setting and in xenografts. We found a correlation between ErbB2 expression and activation of Pak in estrogen-receptor positive human breast tumor samples and observed that in 3D cultures, activation of Rac-Pak1 pathway by ErbB2 homodimers induced growth factor independent proliferation and promoted disruption of three-dimensional mammary acinar-like structures through activation of the Erk and Akt pathways. Further, we found that inhibition of Pak1 by small molecules compromised activation of Erk and Akt, resulting in reversion of the malignant phenotype and restoration of normal acinar architecture. Finally, ErbB2-amplified breast cancer cells expressing a specific Pak inhibitor showed delayed tumor formation and down-regulation of Erk and Akt signaling in vivo. These data imply that the Rac-Pak pathway is vital to ErbB2-mediated transformation and that Pak inhibitors represent plausible drug targets in breast cancers in which ErbB2 signaling is activated.
transformation; small GTPase; protein kinase; ErbB2; signal transduction; breast cancer
In this review we discuss both gene expression and protein localization changes of polarity proteins in carcinoma. We highlight the importance of protein mislocalization and its possible role in cancer. We also discuss the emerging role of polarity proteins as regulators of proliferation, apoptosis, tissue polarity, epithelial mesenchymal transition, in addition to their known role in cell junction biogenesis.
Loss of cell polarity proteins such as Scribble induces neoplasia in Drosophila by promoting uncontrolled proliferation. The role polarity proteins play during tumorigenesis in mammals is poorly understood. We demonstrate that knockdown of Scribble in mammary epithelia disrupts cell polarity, blocks three-dimensional morphogenesis, inhibits apoptosis and induces dysplasia in vivo that progress to tumors after long latency. Knockdown of Scribble also cooperates with oncogenes such as Myc to transform epithelial cells in 3D acini and induce tumors in vivo by blocking activation of an apoptosis pathway. Like knockdown, mislocalization of Scribble from cell-cell junction was sufficient to promote cell transformation. Interestingly, spontaneous mammary tumors in mice and humans possess both downregulated and mislocalized Scribble suggesting a selection-pressure for Scribble inactivation. Thus, we demonstrate that Scribble is a novel regulator of breast cancer and that deregulation of polarity pathways promotes dysplastic and neoplastic growth in mammals by disrupting morphogenesis and inhibiting cell death.
Myc; Scribble; 3D; mammary epithelia; mammary tumorigenesis; mouse models; epithelial organization; polarity; apoptosis; cell architecture
Both ErbB1 and ErbB2 are overexpressed or amplified in breast tumours. To examine the effects of activating ErbB receptors in a context that mimics polarized epithelial cells in vivo, we activated ErbB1 and ErbB2 homodimers in preformed, growth-arrested mammary acini cultured in three-dimensional basement membrane gels. Activation of ErbB2, but not that of ErbB1, led to a reinitiation of cell proliferation and altered the properties of mammary acinar structures. These altered structures share several properties with early-stage tumours, including a loss of proliferative suppression, an absence of lumen, retention of the basement membrane and a lack of invasive properties. ErbB2 activation also disrupted tight junctions and the cell polarity of polarized epithelia, whereas ErbB1 activation did not have any effect. Our results indicate that ErbB receptors differ in their ability to induce early stages of mammary carcinogenesis in vitro and this three-dimensional model system can reveal biological activities of oncogenes that cannot be examined in vitro in standard transformation assays.
Amplification and overexpression of ErbB2 strongly correlates with aggressive breast cancers. A deeper understanding of pathways downstream of ErbB2 signaling that are required for transformation of human mammary epithelial cells will identify novel strategies for therapeutic intervention in breast cancer. Using an inducible activation of ErbB2 autophosphorylation site mutants and the MCF-10A three-dimensional culture system we investigated pathways used by ErbB2 to transform epithelia. We report that ErbB2 induces cell proliferation and loss of 3D organization by redundant mechanisms whereas it disrupts apical basal polarity and inhibits apoptosis using Tyr 1201 and Tyr 1226/7 respectively. Signals downstream of Tyr 1226/7 were also sufficient to confer paclitaxel resistance. The Tyr1226/7 binds Shc, and knockdown of Shc blocked the ability of ErbB2 to inhibit apoptosis and mediate paclitaxel resistance. Tyr1226/7 is known to activate the Ras/Erk pathway, however, paclitaxel resistance did not correlate with activation of Erk or Akt suggesting the presence of a novel mechanism. Thus, our results demonstrate that targeting pathways used by ErbB2 to inhibit cell death is a better option than targeting cell proliferation pathways. Furthermore, we identify a novel function for Shc as a regulator of apoptosis and drug resistance in human mammary epithelial cells transformed by ErbB2.
The Polarity protein complex Par6/aPKC/Cdc42 regulates polarization processes during epithelial morphogenesis, astrocyte migration and axon specification. Others and we have demonstrated that this complex is also required for disruption of apical-basal polarity during the oncogene ErbB2-induced transformation and TGFβ-induced epithelial mesenchymal transition of mammary epithelial cells. Here, we report that expression of Par6 by itself in mammary epithelial cells induces epidermal growth factor independent cell proliferation and development of hyperplastic three-dimensional acini without affecting apical-basal polarity. This is dependent on the ability of Par6 to interact with aPKC and Cdc42 but not Lgl and Par3 and its ability to promote sustained activation of MEK/Erk signaling. Downregulation of Cdc42 or aPKC expression suppresses the ability of Par6 to induce proliferation, demonstrating that Par6 promotes cell proliferation by interacting with aPKC and Cdc42. We also show that Par6 is overexpressed in breast cancer derived cell lines and in both precancerous and advanced primary human breast cancers suggesting that Par6 overexpression regulates tumor initiation and progression. Thus, in addition to regulating cell polarization processes, Par6 is an inducer of cell proliferation in breast epithelial cells.
Identification of bona fide tumor suppressors is often challenging because of the large number of alterations present in most human cancers. To evaluate candidates present within regions recurrently deleted in human cancers we coupled high-resolution genomic analysis with a two-stage genetic study using RNA interference (RNAi). We found that Cyfip1, a subunit of the WAVE complex, which regulates cytoskeletal dynamics, is commonly deleted in human epithelial cancers. Reduced expression of Cyfip1 is commonly observed during invasion of epithelial tumors and it associated with poor prognosis in same tumor types. Silencing of Cyfip1 disturbed normal epithelial morphogenesis in vitro and cooperated with oncogenic Ras to produce invasive carcinomas in vivo. Mechanistically, we have linked alterations in WAVE-regulated actin dynamics with impaired cell-cell adhesion and cell-ECM interactions. Thus, we propose Cyfip1 as an invasion suppressor gene.
Senthil Muthuswamy discusses a study that characterizes a new tumor suppressor gene, ductal epithelium-associated RING Chromosome 1, that is frequently inactivated in breast cancer.
Epithelial cells organize into cyst-like structures that contain a spherical monolayer of cells that enclose a central lumen. Using a three-dimensional basement membrane culture model in which mammary epithelial cells form hollow, acinus-like structures, we previously demonstrated that lumen formation is achieved, in part, through apoptosis of centrally localized cells. We demonstrate that the proapoptotic protein Bim may selectively trigger apoptosis of the centrally localized acinar cells, leading to temporally controlled lumen formation. Bim is not detectable during early stages of three-dimensional mammary acinar morphogenesis and is then highly upregulated in all cells of acini, coincident with detection of apoptosis in the centrally localized acinar cells. Inhibition of Bim expression by RNA interference transiently blocks luminal apoptosis and delays lumen formation. Oncogenes that induce acinar luminal filling, such as ErbB2 and v-Src, suppress expression of Bim through a pathway dependent on Erk-mitogen-activated protein kinase; however, HPV 16 E7, an oncogene that stimulates cell proliferation but not luminal filling, is unable to reduce Bim expression. Thus, Bim is a critical regulator of luminal apoptosis during mammary acinar morphogenesis in vitro and may be an important target of oncogenes that disrupt glandular epithelial architecture.
Integrin-mediated adhesion of epithelial cells to extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins induces prolonged tyrosine phosphorylation and partial activation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in an integrin-dependent and EGFR ligand-independent manner. Integrin-mediated activation of EGFR in epithelial cells is required for multiple signal transduction events previously shown to be induced by cell adhesion to matrix proteins, including tyrosine phosphorylation of Shc, Cbl, and phospholipase Cγ, and activation of the Ras/Erk and phosphatidylinositol 3′-kinase/Akt signaling pathways. In contrast, activation of focal adhesion kinase, Src, and protein kinase C, adhesion to matrix proteins, cell spreading, migration, and actin cytoskeletal rearrangements are induced independently of EGFR kinase activity. The ability of integrins to induce the activation of EGFR and its subsequent regulation of Erk and Akt activation permitted adhesion-dependent induction of cyclin D1 and p21, Rb phosphorylation, and activation of cdk4 in epithelial cells in the absence of exogenous growth factors. Adhesion of epithelial cells to the ECM failed to efficiently induce degradation of p27, to induce cdk2 activity, or to induce Myc and cyclin A synthesis; subsequently, cells did not progress into S phase. Treatment of ECM-adherent cells with EGF, or overexpression of EGFR or Myc, resulted in restoration of late-G1 cell cycle events and progression into S phase. These results indicate that partial activation of EGFR by integrin receptors plays an important role in mediating events triggered by epithelial cell attachment to ECM; EGFR is necessary for activation of multiple integrin-induced signaling enzymes and sufficient for early events in G1 cell cycle progression. Furthermore, these findings suggest that EGFR or Myc overexpression may provoke ligand-independent proliferation in matrix-attached cells in vivo and could contribute to carcinoma development.
The four members of the ErbB family of receptor tyrosine kinases are involved in a complex array of combinatorial interactions involving homo- and heterodimers. Since most cell types express more than one member of the ErbB family, it is difficult to distinguish the biological activities of different homo- and heterodimers. Here we describe a method for inducing homo- or heterodimerization of ErbB receptors by using synthetic ligands without interference from the endogenous receptors. ErbB receptor chimeras containing synthetic ligand binding domains (FK506-binding protein [FKBP] or FKBP-rapamycin-binding domain [FRB]) were homodimerized with the bivalent FKBP ligand AP1510 and heterodimerized with the bifunctional FKBP-FRB ligand rapamycin. AP1510 treatment induced tyrosine phosphorylation of ErbB1 and ErbB2 homodimers and recruitment of Src homology 2 domain-containing proteins (Shc and Grb2). In addition, ErbB1 and ErbB2 homodimers activated downstream signaling pathways leading to Erk2 and Akt phosphorylation. However, only ErbB1 homodimers were internalized upon AP1510 stimulation, and only ErbB1 homodimers were able to associate with and induce phosphorylation of c-Cbl. Cells expressing AP1510-induced ErbB1 homodimers were able to associate with and induce phosphorylation of c-Cbl. Cells expressing AP1510-induced ErbB1 homodimers were able to form foci; however, cells expressing ErbB2 homodimers displayed a five- to sevenfold higher focus-forming ability. Using rapamycin-inducible heterodimerization we show that c-Cbl is unable to associate with ErbB1 in a ErbB1-ErbB2 heterodimer most likely because ErbB2 is unable to phosphorylate the c-Cbl binding site on ErbB1. Thus, we demonstrate that ErbB1 and ErbB2 homodimers differ in their abilities to transform fibroblasts and provide evidence for differential signaling by ErbB homodimers and heterodimers. These observations also validate the use of synthetic ligands to study the signaling and biological specificity of selected ErbB dimers in any cell type.
Transgenic mice expressing the polyomavirus (PyV) middle T antigen (MT) develop multifocal mammary tumors which frequently metastasize to the lung. The potent transforming activity of PyV MT is correlated with its capacity to activate and associate with a number of signaling molecules, including the Src family tyrosine kinases, the 85-kDa Src homology 2 subunit of the phosphatidylinositol 3′ (PI-3′) kinase, and the Shc adapter protein. To uncover the role of these signaling proteins in MT-mediated mammary tumorigenesis, we have generated transgenic mice that express mutant PyV MT antigens decoupled from either the Shc or the PI-3′ kinase signaling pathway. In contrast to the rapid induction of metastatic mammary tumors observed in the strains expressing wild-type PyV MT, mammary epithelial cell-specific expression of either mutant PyV MT resulted in the induction of extensive mammary epithelial hyperplasias. The mammary epithelial hyperplasias expressing the mutant PyV MT defective in recruiting the PI-3′ kinase were highly apoptotic, suggesting that recruitment of PI-3′ kinase by MT affects cell survival. Whereas the initial phenotypes observed in both strains were global mammary epithelial hyperplasias, focal mammary tumors eventually arose in all female transgenic mice. Genetic and biochemical analyses of tumorigenesis in the transgenic strains expressing the PyV MT mutant lacking the Shc binding site revealed that a proportion of the metastatic tumors arising in these mice displayed evidence of reversion of the mutant Shc binding site. In contrast, no evidence of reversion of the PI-3′ kinase binding site was noted in tumors derived from the strains expressing the PI-3′ kinase binding site MT mutant. Tumor progression in both mutant strains was further correlated with upregulation of the epidermal growth factor receptor family members which are known to couple to the PI-3′ kinase and Shc signaling pathways. Taken together, these observations suggest that PyV MT-mediated tumorigenesis requires activation of both Shc and PI-3′ kinase, which appear to be required for stimulation of cell proliferation and survival signaling pathways, respectively.
Changes in expression and localization of proteins that regulate cell and tissue polarity are frequently observed in carcinoma. However, the mechanisms by which changes in cell polarity proteins regulate carcinoma progression are not well understood. Here, we report that loss of polarity protein expression in epithelial cells primes them for cooperation with oncogenes or changes in tissue microenvironment to promote invasive behavior. Activation of ErbB2 in cells lacking the polarity regulators Scribble, Dlg1 or AF-6, induced invasive properties. This cooperation required the ability of ErbB2 to regulate the Par6/aPKC polarity complex. Inhibition of the ErbB2-Par6 pathway was sufficient to block ErbB2-induced invasion suggesting that two polarity hits may be needed for ErbB2 to promote invasion. Interestingly, in the absence of ErbB2 activation, either a combined loss of two polarity proteins, or exposure of cells lacking one polarity protein to cytokines IL-6 or TNFα induced invasive behavior in epithelial cells. We observed the invasive behavior only when cells were plated on a stiff matrix (Matrigel/Collagen-1) and not when plated on a soft matrix (Matrigel alone). Cells lacking two polarity proteins upregulated expression of EGFR and activated Akt. Inhibition of Akt activity blocked the invasive behavior identifying a mechanism by which loss of polarity promotes invasion of epithelial cells. Thus, we demonstrate that loss of polarity proteins confers phenotypic plasticity to epithelial cells such that they display normal behavior under normal culture conditions but display aggressive behavior in response to activation of oncogenes or exposure to cytokines.