Transcriptional profiling of MCF7 breast cancer cells in response to 5-Fluorouracil: relationship with cell cycle changes and apoptosis, and identification of novel targets of p53

Int J Cancer. 2006 Sep 1;119(5):1164-75. doi: 10.1002/ijc.21938.


The availability of oral precursors of 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) and its favorable results in treating advanced breast cancer have renewed the interest in the molecular mechanisms underlying its cytotoxicity. We have compared the changes in cell cycle and cell death parameters induced by 2 different concentrations of 5-FU (IC50 and IC80) in the breast adenocarcinoma cell line MCF7. G1/S cell cycle arrest was associated with both concentrations, whereas cell death was mainly induced after IC80 5-FU. These changes were correlated with gene expression assessed by cDNA microarray analysis. Main findings included an overexpression of p53 target genes involved in cell cycle and apoptosis (CDKN1A/p21, TP53INP, TNFRSF6/FAS and BBC3/PUMA), and significant repression of Myc. High dose 5-FU also induced a higher regulation of the mitochondrial death genes APAF1, BAK1 and BCL2, and induction of genes of the ID family. Furthermore, we establish a direct causal relationship between p21, ID1 and ID2 overexpression, increased acetylation of histones H3 and H4 and binding of p53 to their promoters as a result of 5-FU treatment. The relevance of these findings was further studied after interfering p53 expression in MCF7 cells (shp53 cells), showing a lower induction of both, ID1 and ID2 transcripts, after 5-FU when compared with MCF7 shGFP control cells. This molecular characterization of dose- and time-dependent modifications of gene expression after 5-FU treatment should provide a resource for future basic studies addressing the molecular mechanisms of chemotherapy in breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • DNA Damage / drug effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Fluorouracil / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Microarray Analysis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / drug effects*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism


  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Fluorouracil