Although aberrant tyrosine kinase signalling characterises particular breast cancer subtypes, a global analysis of tyrosine phosphorylation in mouse models of breast cancer has not been undertaken to date. This may identify conserved oncogenic pathways and potential therapeutic targets.
We applied an immunoaffinity/mass spectrometry workflow to three mouse models: murine stem cell virus-Neu, expressing truncated Neu, the rat orthologue of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, Her2 (HER2); mouse mammary tumour virus-polyoma virus middle T antigen (PyMT); and the p53−/− transplant model (p53). Pathways and protein–protein interaction networks were identified by bioinformatics analysis. Molecular mechanisms underpinning differences in tyrosine phosphorylation were characterised by Western blot analysis and array comparative genomic hybridisation. The functional role of mesenchymal–epithelial transition factor (Met) in a subset of p53-null tumours was interrogated using a selective tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI), small interfering RNA (siRNA)–mediated knockdown and cell proliferation assays.
The three models could be distinguished on the basis of tyrosine phosphorylation signatures and signalling networks. HER2 tumours exhibited a protein–protein interaction network centred on avian erythroblastic leukaemia viral oncogene homologue 2 (Erbb2), epidermal growth factor receptor and platelet-derived growth factor receptor α, and they displayed enhanced tyrosine phosphorylation of ERBB receptor feedback inhibitor 1. In contrast, the PyMT network displayed significant enrichment for components of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase signalling pathway, whereas p53 tumours exhibited increased tyrosine phosphorylation of Met and components or regulators of the cytoskeleton and shared signalling network characteristics with basal and claudin-low breast cancer cells. A subset of p53 tumours displayed markedly elevated cellular tyrosine phosphorylation and Met expression, as well as Met gene amplification. Treatment of cultured p53-null cells exhibiting Met amplification with a selective Met TKI abrogated aberrant tyrosine phosphorylation and blocked cell proliferation. The effects on proliferation were recapitulated when Met was knocked down using siRNA. Additional subtypes of p53 tumours exhibited increased tyrosine phosphorylation of other oncogenes, including Peak1/SgK269 and Prex2.
This study provides network-level insights into signalling in the breast cancer models utilised and demonstrates that comparative phosphoproteomics can identify conserved oncogenic signalling pathways. The Met-amplified, p53-null tumours provide a new preclinical model for a subset of triple-negative breast cancers.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13058-014-0437-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.