HER2/neu increases the expression of Wilms' Tumor 1 (WT1) protein to stimulate S-phase proliferation and inhibit apoptosis in breast cancer cells

Oncogene. 2005 Feb 24;24(9):1648-52. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1208345.


High levels of the Wilms' Tumor 1 (WT1) protein and mRNA had been associated with aggressive phenotypes of breast tumors. Here we report that the HER2/neu oncogene increases WT1 expression. Approximately threefold higher levels of WT1 protein were observed in MCF-7 breast cancer cells transfected with the HER2/neu oncogene than in parental MCF-7 cells. Conversely, inhibition of HER2/neu with the anti-HER2/neu trastuzumab (Herceptintrade mark) antibody decreased WT1 protein levels in HER2/neu-overexpressing BT-474 and SKBr3 cells. We also found that HER2/neu engages Akt to regulate WT1 levels since inhibition of Akt reduced WT1 levels. Decreased expression of WT1 protein led to cell cycle arrest at the G1 phase and increased apoptosis in HER2/neu-overexpressing cells, which is correlated with decreased cyclin D1 and Bcl-2 levels. Our data indicate that HER2/neu engages Akt to increase WT1 expression, and that WT1 protein plays a vital role in regulating cell cycle progression and apoptosis in HER2/neu-overexpressing breast cancer cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cyclin D
  • Cyclins / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism*
  • S Phase
  • WT1 Proteins / genetics*


  • Cyclin D
  • Cyclins
  • WT1 Proteins
  • Receptor, ErbB-2