Introduction: Rho GTPases are overexpressed and hyperactivated in human breast cancers. Deficiency of p190B RhoGAP, a major inhibitor of the Rho GTPases, inhibits mouse mammary tumor virus long terminal repeat (MMTV)-Neu/ErbB2 mammary tumor formation and progression in part through effects within the stromal environment, suggesting that p190B function is pro-tumorigenic. To further investigate the potential pro-tumorigenic actions of p190B, we examined the effects of exogenous p190B expression within the mammary epithelium on MMTV-Neu tumor formation and progression.
Methods: Tetracycline-regulatable p190B transgenic mice were bred to MMTV-Neu mice, and the effects of exogenous p190B expression on tumor latency, multiplicity, growth rates, angiogenesis, and metastasis were examined. The effects of exogenous p190B expression on cell-matrix adhesion and invasion were tested using non-transformed primary mammary epithelial cells (MECs). Rho GTPase activity, oxidative stress as an indicator of reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, and downstream signaling pathways were analyzed.
Results: Altered p190B expression resulted in a 2-fold increase in tumor multiplicity and a 3-fold increase in metastases compared to control mice indicating that exogenous p190B expression in the mammary epithelium promotes MMTV-Neu mammary tumor formation and progression. Interestingly, non-transformed primary MECs expressing exogenous p190B displayed increased adhesion to laminin and type IV collagen and formed invasive structures in a three-dimensional culture assay. Ras related C3 botulinum toxin 1 (Rac1)-GTP levels were elevated in p190B transgenic tumors whereas Ras homologous A (RhoA) and cell division cycle 42 (Cdc42)-GTP levels were not significantly altered. Rac1 activity affects production of ROS, which regulate transformation, metastasis, and oxidative stress. Protein carbonylation, which is indicative of oxidative stress, was elevated 1.75-fold in p190B transgenic tumors as compared to control tumors suggesting that exogenous p190B expression may affect Rac1-dependent ROS production.
Conclusions: These studies indicate that paradoxically, p190B RhoGAP, a major inhibitor of the Rho GTPases in vitro, has pro-tumorigenic functions that enhance MMTV-Neu induced mammary tumor formation and metastasis. Furthermore, exogenous p190B expression enhances cell adhesion and invasion, which may facilitate metastasis. Rac1 activity and oxidative stress are elevated in tumors expressing exogenous p190B suggesting that p190B may promote tumorigenesis through a Rac1/ROS dependent mechanism.