Mammary epithelial-specific disruption of focal adhesion kinase retards tumor formation and metastasis in a transgenic mouse model of human breast cancer

Am J Pathol. 2008 Nov;173(5):1551-65. doi: 10.2353/ajpath.2008.080308. Epub 2008 Oct 9.


Focal adhesion kinase (FAK) is a central regulator of the focal adhesion, influencing cell proliferation, survival, and migration. Despite evidence demonstrating FAK overexpression in human cancer, its role in tumor initiation and progression is not well understood. Using Cre/LoxP technology to specifically knockout FAK in the mammary epithelium, we showed that FAK is not required for tumor initiation but is required for tumor progression. The mechanistic underpinnings of these results suggested that FAK regulates clinically relevant gene signatures and multiple signaling complexes associated with tumor progression and metastasis, such as Src, ERK, and p130Cas. Furthermore, a systems-level analysis identified FAK as a major regulator of the tumor transcriptome, influencing genes associated with adhesion and growth factor signaling pathways, and their cross talk. Additionally, FAK was shown to down-regulate the expression of clinically relevant proliferation- and metastasis-associated gene signatures, as well as an enriched group of genes associated with the G(2) and G(2)/M phases of the cell cycle. Computational analysis of transcription factor-binding sites within ontology-enriched or clustered gene sets suggested that the differentially expressed proliferation- and metastasis-associated genes in FAK-null cells were regulated through a common set of transcription factors, including p53. Therefore, FAK acts as a primary node in the activated signaling network in transformed motile cells and is a prime candidate for novel therapeutic interventions to treat aggressive human breast cancers.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Movement / genetics
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Crk-Associated Substrate Protein / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Epithelium / enzymology*
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / metabolism
  • Female
  • Focal Adhesion Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / deficiency*
  • Focal Adhesions / genetics
  • G2 Phase / genetics
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / enzymology*
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / pathology
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / enzymology*
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / genetics
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mitosis / genetics
  • Organ Specificity
  • Phosphorylation
  • Receptors, Growth Factor / genetics
  • src-Family Kinases / metabolism


  • Crk-Associated Substrate Protein
  • Receptors, Growth Factor
  • Focal Adhesion Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • src-Family Kinases
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases