Research Papers:

Prolactin induces up-regulation of its cognate receptor in breast cancer cells via transcriptional activation of its generic promoter by cross-talk between ERα and STAT5

Raghuveer Kavarthapu, Chon-Hwa Tsai Morris and Maria L. Dufau _

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Oncotarget. 2014; 5:9079-9091. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.2376

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Raghuveer Kavarthapu1, Chon-Hwa Tsai Morris1 and Maria L. Dufau1

1 Section on Molecular Endocrinology, Program in Developmental Endocrinology and Genetics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD


Maria L. Dufau, email:

Keywords: prolactin, prolactin receptor, ERα, STAT5, Sp1/ C/EBPβ, signal transduction, breast cancer

Received: May 27, 2014 Accepted: August 20, 2014 Published: August 21, 2014


Prolactin (PRL) serves a critical role in breast cancer progression via activation of its cognate receptor. These studies reveal up-regulation of PRLR gene expression by PRL in absence of estradiol in MCF-7 and T47D breast cancer cells. PRL/PRLR via activation of STAT5 that binds a GAS-element in the PRLR gene and the participation of ERα stimulates PRLR transcription/expression. PRL/PRLR induces phosphorylation of ERα through the JAK2/PI3K/MAPK/ERK and JAK2/HER2 activated pathways. The increased recruitment of phospho-ERα, induced by PRL to Sp1 and C/EBPβ at PRLR promoter sites, is essential for PRL-induced PRLR transcription. This recruitment is prevented by blockade of PRL expression using RNA interference or ERα phosphorylation with specific inhibitors of PI3K and ERK. Direct evidence is provided for local actions of PRL, independent of estradiol, in the up-regulation of PRLR transcription/expression by an activation-loop between STAT5 and the phospho-ERα/Sp1/C/EBPβ complex with requisite participation of signaling mechanisms. PRL’s central role in the up-regulation of PRLR maximizes the action of the endogenous hormone. This study offers mechanistically rational basis for invasiveness fueled by prolactin in refractory states to adjuvant therapies in breast cancer.

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