Metastasis tumor antigen family proteins during breast cancer progression and metastasis in a reliable mouse model for human breast cancer

Hao Zhang, L Clifton Stephens, Rakesh Kumar
Clinical Cancer Research 2006 March 1, 12 (5): 1479-86

PURPOSE: Chromatin remodeling pathways are critical in the regulation of cancer-related genes and are currently being explored as potential targets for therapeutic intervention. The metastasis tumor antigen (MTA) family of proteins, MTA1, MTA2, and MTA3, are components of chromatin remodeling pathways with potential roles in breast cancer. Although all three MTA family proteins have been shown to be associated with metastatic progression of breast cancers, the expression characteristic of MTA1-3 proteins in a multistep breast cancer progression model remains unknown. Structural and functional studies have suggested that they are heterogeneous in the Mi-2/NuRD complex, exhibit tissue-specific patterns of expression, and impart unique properties to estrogen receptor-alpha (ERalpha) action. This led us to hypothesize that each member of the MTA family possesses a unique role and interacts with different pathways in the stepwise process of breast cancer development and progression.

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: MTA family proteins were examined by immunohistochemistry in breast cancer processes ranging from normal duct, to premalignant lesions, to invasive carcinoma, and to metastasized tumors in PyV-mT transgenic mice, which represents a reliable model for multistage tumorigenesis of human breast cancer. We also determined the association of MTA proteins with the status of cell proliferation, ER, E-cadherin and cytoplasmic beta-catenin, and cancer-related coactivators, AIB1 and PELP1.

RESULTS: The expression of all three MTA proteins was altered in primary breast tumors. Each MTA protein had a unique expression pattern during the primary breast tumor progression. Altered expression of MTA1 was observed in both premalignant lesion and malignant carcinoma, but an elevated nuclear expression was observed in ER-negative carcinomas. MTA3 was exclusively expressed in a subset of cells of ER-positive premalignant lesions but not in carcinomas. MTA2 expression seems to be unrelated to ER status. Loss of MTA3 expression and more nuclear localization of MTA1 occurred with loss of E-cadherin and decreased cytoplasmic beta-catenin, two molecules essential for epithelial cell adhesion and important tumor cell invasion. At the late stage of tumor formation, MTA1 is usually expressed in the center of tumors. Coincidentally, the distribution of MTA1-positive cells at this stage was complementary to that of AIB1 and PELP1, which were localized to the tumor periphery with relatively active cell proliferation, scattered ER-positive cells and a limited differentiation. In metastasized lung tumors, the expression pattern of MTA-protein expression was distinct from that in primary counterparts.

CONCLUSIONS: The findings presented here support the notion that each member of the MTA family might potentially play a stepwise role in a cell type-specific manner during breast cancer progression to metastasis. On the basis of the noted temporal expression patterns of MTA proteins with ER status, cell adhesion-essential regulators (E-cadherin and cytoplasmic beta-catenin), and coactivators, we propose that MTA protein-related chromatin remodeling pathways interact with steroid receptors, growth factor receptors, and other transcriptional signaling pathways to orchestrate the governing of events in breast cancer progression and metastasis.

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