Amplification and deletion of topoisomerase IIalpha associate with ErbB-2 amplification and affect sensitivity to topoisomerase II inhibitor doxorubicin in breast cancer

T A Järvinen, M Tanner, V Rantanen, M Bärlund, A Borg, S Grénman, J Isola
American Journal of Pathology 2000, 156 (3): 839-47
Topoisomerase IIalpha (topoIIalpha) is a key enzyme in DNA replication and a molecular target for many anti-cancer drugs called topoII inhibitors. The topoIIalpha gene is located at chromosome band 17q12-q21, close to the ErbB-2 oncogene (HER-2/neu), which is the most commonly amplified oncogene in breast cancer. Because of the physical proximity to ErbB-2, copy number aberrations may also occur in the topoIIalpha gene. These topoIIalpha gene copy number aberrations may be related to the altered chemosensitivity to topoII inhibitors that breast cancers with ErbB-2 amplification are known to have. We used fluorescence in situ hybridization to study copy number aberrations of both topoIIalpha and ErbB-2 in nine breast cancer cell lines and in 97 clinical breast tumors, which were selected for the study according to their ErbB-2 status by Southern blotting. TopoIIalpha-protein expression was studied with Western blot and sensitivity to doxorubicin (a topoII inhibitor) with a 96-well clonogenic in vitro assay. Two of the five cell lines with ErbB-2 gene amplification (SK-BR-3 and UACC-812) showed amplification of topoIIalpha. In MDA-361 cells, ErbB-2 amplification (14 copies/cell) was associated with a physical deletion of topoIIalpha (four copies of chromosome 17 centromere and two copies of topoIIalpha). The topoIIalpha amplification in UACC-812 cells was associated with 5.9-fold-increased topoIIalpha protein expression and 2.5-fold-increased sensitivity to the topoII inhibitor, doxorubicin, whereas the deletion in MDA-361 leads to decreased protein expression (45% of control) and a 2.4-fold-increased chemoresistance in vitro. Of 57 ErbB-2-amplified primary breast carcinomas, 25 (44%) showed ErbB-2-topoIIalpha coamplification and 24 (42%) showed a physical deletion of the topoIIalpha gene. No topoIIalpha copy number aberrations were found in 40 primary tumors without ErbB-2 amplification. TopoIIalpha gene amplification and deletion are common in ErbB-2-amplified breast cancer and are associated with increased or decreased sensitivity to topoII inhibitors in vitro, respectively. These findings may explain the altered chemosensitivity to topoII inhibitors reported in ErbB-2-amplified breast cancers.

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