Pharmacological inhibition of fatty acid synthase (FAS): a novel therapeutic approach for breast cancer chemoprevention through its ability to suppress Her-2/neu (erbB-2) oncogene-induced malignant transformation

Mol Carcinog. 2004 Nov;41(3):164-78. doi: 10.1002/mc.20054.


We designed our experiments to evaluate whether fatty acid synthase (FAS), a lipogenic enzyme linked to tumor virulence in population studies of human cancer, is necessary for the malignant transformation induced by Her-2/neu (erbB-2) oncogene, which is overexpressed not only in invasive breast cancer but also in premalignant atypical duct proliferations and in ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast. To avoid the genetic complexities associated with established breast cancer cell lines, we employed NIH-3T3 mouse fibroblasts engineered to overexpress human Her-2/neu coding sequence. NIH-3T3/Her-2 cells demonstrated a significant upregulation of FAS protein expression, which was dependent on the upstream activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase and phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase/AKT pathways. Remarkably, pharmacological FAS blockade using the mycotoxin cerulenin or the novel small compound C75 completely suppressed the state of Her-2/neu-induced malignant transformation by inhibiting the ability of NIH-3T3/Her-2 cells to grow under either anchorage-independent (i.e., to form colonies in soft agar) or low-serum monolayer conditions. Moreover, NIH-3T3/Her-2 fibroblasts were up to three times more sensitive to chemical FAS inhibitors relative to untransformed controls as determined by MTT-based cell viability assays. In addition, pharmacological FAS blockade preferentially induced apoptotic cell death of NIH-3T3/Her-2 fibroblasts, as determined by an ELISA for histone-associated DNA fragments and by the terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase (TdT)-mediated nick end labeling assay (TUNEL). Interestingly, the degree of Her-2/neu oncogene expression in a panel of breast cancer cell lines was predictive of sensitivity to chemical FAS inhibitors-induced cytotoxicity, while low-FAS expressing and chemical FAS inhibitors-resistant MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells became hypersensitive to FAS blockade when they were engineered to overexpress Her-2/neu. Our observations strongly suggest that inhibition of FAS activity may provide a new molecular avenue for chemotherapeutic prevention and/or treatment of Her-2/neu-related breast carcinomas.

MeSH terms

  • 4-Butyrolactone / analogs & derivatives
  • 4-Butyrolactone / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Adhesion / drug effects
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / drug effects*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerulenin / pharmacology
  • Chemoprevention
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Fatty Acid Synthases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Mice
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • NIH 3T3 Cells / drug effects
  • NIH 3T3 Cells / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / genetics
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor / metabolism*
  • fas Receptor


  • Antifungal Agents
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • FAS protein, human
  • Fas protein, mouse
  • Fatty Acids
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • fas Receptor
  • Cerulenin
  • Fatty Acid Synthases
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • AKT1 protein, human
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • 4-Butyrolactone