Research Papers:

The TGFα-EGFR-Akt signaling axis plays a role in enhancing proinflammatory chemokines in triple-negative breast cancer cells

Rosa Mistica C. Ignacio, Carla R. Gibbs, Eun-Sook Lee and Deok-Soo Son _

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:29286-29303. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.25389

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Rosa Mistica C. Ignacio1, Carla R. Gibbs1, Eun-Sook Lee2 and Deok-Soo Son1

1Department of Biochemistry and Cancer Biology, Meharry Medical College, Nashville, TN 37208 USA

2Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, FL 32301 USA

Correspondence to:

Deok-Soo Son, email: [email protected]

Keywords: proinflammatory chemokine; Akt; EGFR; TGFα; triple-negative breast cancer

Received: December 09, 2017     Accepted: April 28, 2018     Published: June 29, 2018


Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is aggressive and typically has a poor prognosis. Chemokines have chemoattractant potential for cancer metastasis. Here, we investigated the chemokine signatures in BC subtypes and the underlying mechanisms that enhance proinflammatory chemokines in TNBC. Analysis from microarray dataset revealed that basal-like BC subtype including TNBC expressed dominantly proinflammatory chemokines, such as CXCL1 and 8, compared to non-TNBC. Chemokine PCR array confirmed the dominant chemokines in TNBC cells. To identify a driving factor for proinflammatory chemokines in TNBC cells, we determined the expression and signaling profiles of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) family members. TNBC cells expressed higher levels of EGFR and phosphorylated Akt/Erk than non-TNBC cells. In addition, EGF further enhanced the proinflammatory chemokines in TNBC cells, including CXCL2. Knockdown of Akt reduced the CXCL2 promoter activity, while overexpression of Akt enhanced it. MK2206, an Akt inhibitor, reduced the CXCL2 promoter activity, while inhibition and knockdown of Erk did not reduce its activity. We found that transforming growth factor alpha (TGFα) could serve as a main ligand for EGFR to drive EGFR-mediated Akt activation in TNBC cells. MK2206 decreased TGFα promoter activity, while overexpression of Akt increased it. MK2206 also reduced TGFα release from TNBC cells. Moreover, MK2206 downregulated CXCL2 mRNA expression, while TGFα upregulated it. Taken together, the TGFα-EGFR-Akt signaling axis can play a role in enhancing proinflammatory chemokine expression in TNBC, subsequently contributing to the inflammatory burden that ultimately lead to cancer progression and a higher mortality rate among TNBC patients.

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