Endocrine resistance and metastatic progression are primary causes of treatment failure in breast cancer. While mitogen activated protein kinases (MAPKs) are known to promote ligand-independent cell growth, the role of the MEK5-ERK5 pathway in the progression of clinical breast carcinoma remains poorly understood. Here, we demonstrated increased ERK5 activation in 30 of 39 (76.9%) clinical tumor samples, as well as across breast cancer cell systems. Overexpression of MEK5 in MCF-7 cells promoted both hormone-dependent and hormone-independent tumorigenesis in vitro and in vivo and conferred endocrine therapy resistance to previously sensitive breast cancer cells. Expression of MEK5 suppressed estrogen receptor (ER)α, but not ER-β protein levels, and abrogated downstream estrogen response element (ERE) transcriptional activity and ER-mediated gene transcription. Global gene expression changes associated with upregulation of MEK5 included increased activation of ER-α independent growth signaling pathways and promotion of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) markers. Taken together, our findings show that the MEK5-ERK5 pathway mediates progression to an ER(-), mesenchymal and endocrine therapy resistant phenotype. Given the need for new clinical therapeutic targets, our results demonstrate the therapeutic potential of targeting the MEK5-ERK5 pathway in breast cancer.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)