JOURNAL ARTICLE

Crk adaptor proteins act as key signaling integrators for breast tumorigenesis

Kelly E Fathers, Emily S Bell, Charles V Rajadurai, Sean Cory, Hong Zhao, Anna Mourskaia, Dongmei Zuo, Jason Madore, Anie Monast, Anne-Marie Mes-Masson, Andree-Anne Grosset, Louis Gaboury, Michael Hallet, Peter Siegel, Morag Park
Breast Cancer Research: BCR 2012, 14 (3): R74
22569336

INTRODUCTION: CT10 regulator of kinase (Crk) adaptor proteins (CrkI, CrkII and CrkL) play a role in integrating signals for migration and invasion of highly malignant breast cancer cell lines. This has important implications, as elevated CrkI/II protein levels were observed in a small cohort of breast cancer patients, which identified a potential role for Crk proteins in breast cancer progression. Numerous in vitro studies identified a role for Crk proteins in cell motility, but little is known about how Crk proteins contribute to breast cancer progression in vivo.

METHODS: The clinical significance of Crk proteins in human breast cancer was assessed by analyzing published breast cancer datasets using a gene expression signature that was generated following CrkII over-expression and by examining Crk protein expression in tissue microarrays of breast tumors (n = 254). Stable knockdown of Crk (CrkI/CrkII/CrkL) proteins was accomplished using a short hairpin RNA (shRNA)-mediated approach in two basal breast cancer cell lines, MDA-231 1833TR and SUM1315, where the former have a high affinity to form bone metastases. Both in vitro assays (cell migration, invasion, soft agar growth) and in vivo experiments (intra-cardiac, tibial and mammary fat pad injections) were performed to assess the functional significance of Crk proteins in breast cancer.

RESULTS: A gene signature derived following CrkII over-expression correlated significantly with basal breast cancers and with high grade and poor outcome in general. Moreover, elevated Crk immunostaining on tissue microarrays revealed a significant association with highly proliferative tumors within the basal subtype. RNAi-mediated knockdown of all three Crk proteins in metastatic basal breast cancer cells established a continued requirement for Crk in cell migration and invasion in vitro and metastatic growth in vivo. Furthermore, Crk ablation suppressed anchorage independent growth and in vivo orthotopic tumor growth. This was associated with diminished cell proliferation and was rescued by expression of non-shRNA targeted CrkI/II. Perturbations in tumor progression correlated with altered integrin signaling, including decreased cell spreading, diminished p130Cas phosphorylation, and Cdc42 activation.

CONCLUSIONS: These data highlight the physiological importance of Crk proteins in regulating growth of aggressive basal breast cancer cells and identify Crk-dependent signaling networks as promising therapeutic targets.

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