JOURNAL ARTICLE

GRP78/BiP inhibits endoplasmic reticulum BIK and protects human breast cancer cells against estrogen starvation-induced apoptosis

Yong Fu, Jianze Li, Amy S Lee
Cancer Research 2007 April 15, 67 (8): 3734-40
17440086
The recent development of hormonal therapy that blocks estrogen synthesis represents a major advance in the treatment of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. However, cancer cells often acquire adaptations resulting in resistance. A recent report reveals that estrogen starvation-induced apoptosis of breast cancer cells requires BIK, an apoptotic BH3-only protein located primarily at the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Searching for novel partners that interact with BIK at the ER, we discovered that BIK selectively forms complex with the glucose-regulated protein GRP78/BiP, a major ER chaperone with prosurvival properties naturally induced in the tumor microenvironment. GRP78 overexpression decreases apoptosis of 293T cells induced by ER-targeted BIK. For estrogen-dependent MCF-7/BUS breast cancer cells, overexpression of GRP78 inhibits estrogen starvation-induced BAX activation, mitochondrial permeability transition, and consequent apoptosis. Further, knockdown of endogenous GRP78 by small interfering RNA (siRNA) sensitizes MCF-7/BUS cells to estrogen starvation-induced apoptosis. This effect was substantially reduced when the expression of BIK was also reduced by siRNA. Our results provide the first evidence that GRP78 confers resistance to estrogen starvation-induced apoptosis in human breast cancer cells via a novel mechanism mediated by BIK. These results further suggest that GRP78 expression level in the tumor cells may serve as a prognostic marker for responsiveness to hormonal therapy based on estrogen starvation and that combination therapy targeting GRP78 may enhance efficacy and reduce resistance.

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