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Breast cancer research and treatment

Disruption of estrogen receptor alpha-p53 interaction in breast tumors: a novel mechanism underlying the anti-tumor effect of radiation therapy.


PMID 18481172

Abstract

Inactivation of tumor suppressor p53 is one of the most frequent events in cancer. Unlike many other cancers, however, p53 gene mutations are infrequent in breast cancers, as about 80% of breast tumors contain wild type p53. The mechanisms underlying functional inactivation of wild type p53 in breast cancer have remained elusive. Besides, how p53 gets activated in breast tumors subjected to radiation therapy remains unknown. We recently reported that in MCF-7 breast cancer cells, estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha) directly binds to p53 and represses its function. Furthermore, the ERalpha-p53 interaction was disrupted by ionizing radiation. These observations have important translational implications especially as there are no reliable cellular or molecular criteria for rational radiotherapy for breast cancer. Here we report our studies towards addressing this important issue, using an MCF-7 breast cancer xenograft model in mice. Radiation effectively inhibits growth of these tumors and stabilizes p53, but has no observable effect on ERalpha protein level. Importantly, chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays demonstrated that ERalpha interacts with p53 bound to endogenous target gene promoters in tumors in vivo, and this interaction is considerably reduced in response to radiotherapy although p53 level is increased. Concomitant with its effect on ERalpha-p53 interaction, radiation increases p53-mediated transcriptional activation of several target genes and increases p53-mediated transcriptional repression of survivin. Our studies show that disruption of ERalpha-p53 interaction in vivo resulting in restoration of functional p53 is a cellular response to radiation. Radiation could be affecting ERalpha and/or p53 directly or it could be influencing other proteins associated with the ERalpha-p53 complex. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report on analysis of DNA-protein-protein interaction occurring on endogenous gene promoters in vivo in breast tumor tissues. These findings suggest that alleviating the inhibitory effect of ERalpha on p53 could be one of the molecular mechanisms underlying activation of p53 by radiation in breast tumors, and therefore, could be exploited to develop more effective ways of combining radiation therapy with systemic therapies such as hormonal therapy and chemotherapy.