Mutations in BRCA1 increase risks of familial breast and ovarian cancers, particularly among premenopausal women. While BRCA1 plays an active role in DNA repair, this function alone may not be sufficient to explain why BRCA1-associated tumors predominantly occur in estrogen-responsive tissues. Aromatase is the rate-limiting enzyme in estrogen biosynthesis and a key target in breast cancer treatment. Aromatase expression in ovarian granulosa cells dictates levels of circulating estrogen in premenopausal women, and its aberrant overexpression in breast adipose tissues promotes breast cancer growth. Here, we show that BRCA1 modulates aromatase expression in ovarian granulosa cells and primary preadipocytes. The cyclic AMP-dependent expression of aromatase in ovarian granulosa cells is inversely correlated with the protein level of BRCA1. Importantly, transient knockdown of BRCA1 enhances aromatase expression in both ovarian granulosa cells and primary preadipocytes. We propose that BRCA1 deficiency in epithelial and certain nonepithelial cells may result in combined effects of aberrant estrogen biosynthesis and compromised DNA repair capability, which in turn may lead to specific cancers in the breast and ovary.
Oncogene (2005) 24, 8343-8348. doi:10.1038/sj.onc.1208985; published online 19 September 2005.