Inhibition of AP-1 transcription factor causes blockade of multiple signal transduction pathways and inhibits breast cancer growth

Oncogene. 2002 Oct 31;21(50):7680-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1205883.


AP-1 transcription factors play a critical role in signal transduction pathways in many cells. We have investigated the role of AP-1 in controlling proliferative signals in breast cells, and have previously shown that AP-1 complexes are activated by peptide and steroid growth factors in both normal and malignant breast cells. In this study, we investigated the role of AP-1 in transducing proliferative signals induced by peptide and steroid growth factors. We used MCF-7 clones that express a specific inhibitor of AP-1, a dominant-negative cJun mutant (TAM67), under the control of an inducible promoter to investigate the role of AP-1 in regulating breast cancer growth. In the presence of doxycycline (Dox), the AP-1 inhibitor was not expressed, and the MCF-7 clones proliferated normally in response to serum stimulation. However, when Dox was withdrawn, TAM67 was expressed, AP-1 activity was inhibited, and serum-induced proliferation was blocked. We next investigated whether the mitogenic response to specific growth factors also requires AP-1. MCF-7 Tet-Off-TAM67 cells were grown in the presence of increasing concentrations of IGF-1, EGF, heregulin-beta, bFGF, or estrogen under un-induced and induced conditions. These studies showed that the AP-1 inhibitor completely blocked proliferation in response to the peptide growth factors (IGF-1, EGF, heregulin-beta, and bFGF), and partially blocked the response to estrogen. To investigate the effect of AP-1 blockade on in vivo tumor growth, we injected the MCF-7 Tet-Off TAM67 cells into nude mice receiving doxycycline to suppress the expression of the AP-1 inhibitor. After the mice developed tumors, they were randomized to either continue to receive Dox or not. In mice not receiving Dox, the expression of TAM67 was induced, and tumor growth was inhibited, while the tumors in mice receiving Dox continued to grow. Analysis of the tumors from these mice showed that the expression of TAM67 caused reduced proliferation of the breast cancer cells without inducing apoptosis. These results demonstrate that AP-1 blockade supresses mitogenic signals from multiple different peptide growth factors as well as estrogen, and inhibits the growth of MCF-7 breast cancer cells both in vitro and in vivo. These results suggest that novel agents specifically targeting AP-1 or its activating kinases could be promising agents for the treatment of breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Culture Media, Serum-Free / pharmacology
  • Estrogens / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Growth Substances / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / genetics
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Transcription Factor AP-1 / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Culture Media, Serum-Free
  • Estrogens
  • Growth Substances
  • Transcription Factor AP-1
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases