c-Jun activation is required for 4-hydroxytamoxifen-induced cell death in breast cancer cells

A Madeo, M Vinciguerra, R Lappano, M Galgani, A Gasperi-Campani, M Maggiolini, A M Musti
Oncogene 2010 February 18, 29 (7): 978-91
The c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) has been shown to mediate tamoxifen-induced apoptosis in breast cancer cells. However, the downstream mediators of the JNK pathway linking tamoxifen to effectors of apoptosis have yet to be identified. In this study, we analysed whether c-Jun, the major nuclear target of JNK, has a role in tamoxifen-induced apoptosis of SkBr3 breast cancer cells. We show that before DNA fragmentation and caspase 3/7 activation, cytotoxic concentrations of 4-hydroxytamoxifen (OHT) induced JNK-dependent phosphorylation of c-Jun at JNK sites earlier shown to regulate c-Jun-mediated apoptosis. In addition, OHT induced ERK-dependent expression of c-Fos and transactivation of an AP-1-responsive promoter. In particular, the ectopic expression of dominant-negative constructs blocking either AP-1 activity or c-Jun N-terminal phosphorylation prevented DNA fragmentation after OHT treatment. Furthermore, both c-Fos expression and c-Jun N-terminal phosphorylation preceded OHT-dependent activation of caspase 3-7 in different types of tamoxifen-sensitive cancer cells, but not in OHT-resistant LNCaP prostate cancer cells. Taken together, our results indicate that the c-Jun/c-Fos AP-1 complex has a pro-apoptotic role in OHT-treated cancer cells and suggest that pharmacological boosts of c-Jun activation may be useful in a combination therapy setting to sensitize cancer cells to tamoxifen-mediated cell death.

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