In situ proximity ligation detection of c-Jun/AP-1 dimers reveals increased levels of c-Jun/Fra1 complexes in aggressive breast cancer cell lines in vitro and in vivo

Bart Baan, Evangelia Pardali, Peter ten Dijke, Hans van Dam
Molecular & Cellular Proteomics: MCP 2010, 9 (9): 1982-90
Genetic and biochemical studies have shown that selective interactions between the Jun, Fos, and activating transcription factor (ATF) components of transcription factor activating protein 1 (AP-1) exhibit specific and critical functions in the regulation of cell proliferation, differentiation, and survival. For instance, the ratio between c-Jun/c-Fos and c-Jun/ATF2 dimers in the cell can be a determining factor in the cellular response to oncogenic or apoptotic stimuli. Until recently, no methods were available to detect endogenous AP-1 complexes in cells and tissues in situ. Here, we validated the proximity ligation assay (PLA) for its ability to specifically visualize and quantify changes in endogenous c-Jun/c-Fos, c-Jun/ATF2, and c-Jun/Fra1 complexes by using, among others, partner-selective c-Jun mutants. Furthermore, we examined the levels of c-Jun/AP-1 dimers in cell lines representing different types of human breast cancer and found that aggressive basal-like breast cancer cells can be discriminated from much less invasive luminal-like cells by PLA detection of c-Jun/Fra1 rather than of c-Jun/ATF2 and c-Jun/c-Fos. Also in tumor tissue derived from highly metastatic basal-like MDA-MB231 cells, high levels of c-Jun/Fra1 complexes were detected. Together, these results demonstrate that in situ PLA is a powerful diagnostic tool to analyze and quantify the amounts of biologically critical AP-1 dimers in fixed cells and tissue material.

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