Research Papers:

Mislocalization of death receptors correlates with cellular resistance to their cognate ligands in human breast cancer cells

Baolin Zhang _, Jun-Jie Chen, Jennifer H.-C. Shen, Leslie Rivera Rosado, Yaqin Zhang and Xu Di

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Oncotarget. 2012; 3:833-842. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.542

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Jun-Jie Chen1,*, H.-C. Jennifer Shen1,*, Leslie A. Rivera Rosado1, Yaqin Zhang1, Xu Di1, and Baolin Zhang1

1 Division of Therapeutic Proteins, Office of Biotechnology Products, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration, Bethesda, Maryland, United States

* Denotes equal contribution


Baolin Zhang, email:

Keywords: death receptors, cellular localization, targeted cancer therapy, drug resistance

Received: July 09, 2012, Accepted: August 18, 2012, Published: August 19, 2012


Multiple clinical trials are ongoing to evaluate the potential antitumor activity of human TNF variants, Fas ligand (FasL), TNF-related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL) and its agonistic antibodies. These drug products act through the death receptors (DRs) TNF receptor 1 (TNFR1), Fas/CD95, DR4 (TRAIL-R1) and/or DR5 (TRAIL-R2), respectively. Therefore, characterization of the level and localization of DR expression in cancer cells is important for DR-targeted therapy. In this study, we examined the subcellular distribution of the four DRs in a panel of 10 human breast cancer cell lines by western blots and flow cytometry and 50 human breast tumors by immunohistochemistry. Despite their total protein expressions, the DRs were found to be absent on the surface of some cell lines. Consistent with this result, all four DRs were found to be mostly expressed in the cytoplasm and/or the nucleus of primary breast tumors (n=50). We further determined the growth inhibition activity (GI50) of the death ligands, recombinant human TNFα, FasL and TRAIL, and found a correlation with the subcellular localization of the corresponding DRs. These results demonstrate an aberrant expression of the death receptors in breast cancer cells, and suggest that the lack of surface DRs appears to be predictive of tumor resistance to DR-targeted therapies.

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