Growth of hormone-dependent MCF-7 breast cancer cells is promoted by constitutive caveolin-1 whose expression is lost in an EGF-R-mediated manner during development of tamoxifen resistance

Nicholas B P Thomas, Iain R Hutcheson, Lee Campbell, Julia Gee, Kathryn M Taylor, Robert I Nicholson, Mark Gumbleton
Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 2010, 119 (3): 575-91
Caveolin-1 displays both tumour-suppressor and tumour-promoter properties in breast cancer. Using characterised preclinical cell models for the transition of oestrogen-sensitive (WT-MCF-7 cells) to a tamoxifen-resistant (TAM-R cells) phenotype we examined the role caveolin-1 in the development of hormone-resistant breast cancer. The WT-MCF-7 cells showed abundant expression of caveolin-1 which potentiated oestrogen-receptor (ERalpha) signalling and promoted cell growth despite caveolin-1 mediating inhibition of ERK signalling. In TAM-R cells caveolin-1 expression was negligible, repressed by EGF-R/ERK signalling. Pharmacological inhibition of EGFR/ERK in TAM-R cells restored caveolin-1 and also resulted in the emergence of pools of phosphorylated caveolin-1. WT-MCF-7 cells exposed to tamoxifen for upto 12 weeks displayed increased caveolin-1 (peaking by week 2) followed (after week 8) by a marked decrease as the cells progress to develop a stable tamoxifen-resistant phenotype. The targeted down-regulation (siRNA) of caveolin-1 in WT-MCF-7 cells reduced growth but did not affect their sensitivity to tamoxifen, suggesting loss of caveolin-1 alone is not sufficient to confer tamoxifen-resistance. Hyperactivation of EGFR/ERK is a feature of tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer cells, a principal driver of cell growth. Recombinant expression of caveolin-1 in TAM-R cells did not affect EGFR/ERK activity, potentially due to mislocalisation of caveolin-1 through hyperactivation of the mTOR pathway or altered caveolin-1 phosphorylation. This work defines a novel role for caveolin-1 with implications for the clinical course of breast cancer and identifies caveolin-1 as a potential drug target for the treatment of early oestrogen-dependent breast cancers. Further, the loss of caveolin-1 may have benefit as a molecular signature for tamoxifen resistance.

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