PloS one

β-Catenin is required for the tumorigenic behavior of triple-negative breast cancer cells.

PMID 25658419


Our previous data illustrated that activation of the canonical Wnt signaling pathway was enriched in triple-negative breast cancer and associated with reduced overall survival in all patients. To determine whether Wnt signaling may be a promising therapeutic target for triple-negative breast cancer, we investigated whether β-catenin was necessary for tumorigenic behaviors in vivo and in vitro. β-catenin expression level was significantly reduced in two human triple-negative breast cancer cell lines, MDA-MB-231 and HCC38, using lentiviral delivery of β-catenin-specific small hairpin RNAs (shRNAs). Upon implantation of the cells in the mammary fat pad of immunocompromised mice, we found that β-catenin shRNA HCC38 cells formed markedly smaller tumors than control cells and grew much more slowly. In in vitro assays, β-catenin silencing significantly reduced the percentage of Aldefluor-positive cells, a read-out of the stem-like cell population, as well as the expression of stem cell-related target genes including Bmi-1 and c-Myc. β-catenin-knockdown cells were also significantly impaired in their ability to migrate in wound-filling assays and form anchorage-independent colonies in soft agar. β-catenin-knockdown cells were more sensitive to chemotherapeutic agents doxorubicin and cisplatin. Collectively, these data suggest that β-catenin is required for triple-negative breast cancer development by controlling numerous tumor-associated properties, such as migration, stemness, anchorage-independent growth and chemosensitivity.