The transcription factor Fra-2 (Fos-related antigen-2) has been implicated in invasion of breast cancer cells, but there is only sparse information about its role in clinical tumours. In the present study, we analysed Fra-2 mRNA expression in a cohort of 167 patients, and found significant correlations between high Fra-2 expression and nodal involvement or reduced disease-free survival. To get more information about the underlying mechanisms, we generated stably transfected MDA-MB231 breast cancer cells with increased Fra-2 expression. Compared with the controls, these clones did not differ in proliferation and motility, but had higher invasive potential. By global gene expression analysis and subsequent validation of selected genes, we identified a number of proteins involved in cell-cell or cell-matrix interactions that were up- or down-regulated in Fra-2 overexpressing cells, e.g. connexin 43, ICAM-1, L1-CAM, integrin beta 2, integrin beta 4, and integrin alpha 6. The association of Fra-2 overexpression and high ICAM-1 or L1-CAM levels could also be demonstrated in our clinical cohort of mammary tumours. In both MDA-MB231 and MCF7 cells, we found an increased attachment of Fra-2 transfectants to components of the extracellular matrix. In addition, we could show a striking increase in the number of rolling cells in flow-through assays using E-selectin coated capillaries, which might indicate a higher capacity of extravasation. In conclusion, our data obtained on breast cancer cell lines and clinical tissue samples suggest that overexpression of Fra-2 promotes breast cancer progression and metastasis by deregulation of genes involved in cell-cell and cell-ECM contacts.
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