Research Papers:

Estrogen receptor alpha (ERα/ESR1) mediates the p53-independent overexpression of MDM4/MDMX and MDM2 in human breast cancer

Wendy M. Swetzig, Jianmin Wang and Gokul M. Das _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:16049-16069. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.7533

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Wendy M. Swetzig1,2, Jianmin Wang3, Gokul M. Das1,2

1Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY, USA

2Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Cancer Therapeutics, The University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY, USA

3Department of Bioinformatics and Biostatistics, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY, USA

Correspondence to:

Gokul M. Das, e-mail: gokul.das@roswellpark.org

Keywords: estrogen receptor alpha (ERα/ESR1), MDM2/HDM2, MDM4/MDMX/HDMX/HDM4, p53, breast cancer

Received: October 26, 2015     Accepted: January 27, 2016     Published: February 20, 2016


MDM2 and MDM4 are heterodimeric, non-redundant oncoproteins that potently inhibit the p53 tumor suppressor protein. MDM2 and MDM4 also enhance the tumorigenicity of breast cancer cells in in vitro and in vivo models and are overexpressed in primary human breast cancers. Prior studies have characterized Estrogen Receptor Alpha (ERα/ESR1) as a regulator of MDM2 expression and an MDM2- and p53-interacting protein. However, similar crosstalk between ERα and MDM4 has not been investigated. Moreover, signaling pathways that mediate the overexpression of MDM4 in human breast cancer remain to be elucidated. Using the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) breast invasive carcinoma patient cohort, we have analyzed correlations between ERα status and MDM4 and MDM2 expression in primary, treatment-naïve, invasive breast carcinoma samples. We report that the expression of MDM4 and MDM2 is elevated in primary human breast cancers of luminal A/B subtypes and associates with ERα-positive disease, independently of p53 mutation status. Furthermore, in cell culture models, ERα positively regulates MDM4 and MDM2 expression via p53-independent mechanisms, and these effects can be blocked by the clinically-relevant endocrine therapies fulvestrant and tamoxifen. Additionally, ERα also positively regulates p53 expression. Lastly, we report that endogenous MDM4 negatively regulates ERα expression and forms a protein complex with ERα in breast cancer cell lines and primary human breast tumor tissue. This suggests direct signaling crosstalk and negative feedback loops between ERα and MDM4 expression in breast cancer cells. Collectively, these novel findings implicate ERα as a central component of the p53-MDM2-MDM4 signaling axis in human breast cancer.

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