The human DEK oncogene stimulates β-catenin signaling, invasion and mammosphere formation in breast cancer

Oncogene. 2011 Jun 16;30(24):2741-52. doi: 10.1038/onc.2011.2. Epub 2011 Feb 14.


Breast cancer is a major cause of cancer-related deaths in American women; therefore, the identification of novel breast cancer-related molecules for the discovery of new markers and drug targets remains essential. The human DEK gene, which encodes a chromatin-binding protein and DNA topology regulator, is upregulated in many types of cancer. DEK has been implicated as an oncogene in breast cancer based on mRNA expression studies, but its functional significance in breast cancer growth and progression has not yet been tested directly. We demonstrate that DEK is highly expressed in breast cancer cells compared with normal tissue, and functionally important for cellular growth, invasion and mammosphere formation. DEK overexpression in non-tumorigenic MCF10A cells resulted in increased growth and motility, with a concomitant downregulation of E-cadherin. Conversely, DEK knockdown in MCF7 and MDA-MB-468 breast cancer cells resulted in decreased growth and motility with upregulation of E-cadherin. The use of DEK-proficient and -deficient breast cancer cells in orthotopic xenografts provided further in vivo evidence that DEK contributes to tumor growth. Activation of the β-catenin signaling pathway is important for normal and cancer stem cell character, growth and metastasis. We show that DEK expression stimulated, and DEK knockdown repressed β-catenin nuclear translocation and activity. Importantly, the expression of constitutively active β-catenin rescued breast cancer invasion defects of DEK knockdown cells. Together, our data indicate that DEK expression stimulates the growth, stem cell character and motility of breast cancer cells, and that DEK-dependent cellular invasion occurs at least in part via β-catenin activation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Survival
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / genetics*
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology*
  • Oncogene Proteins / genetics*
  • Oncogene Proteins / physiology
  • Poly-ADP-Ribose Binding Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogenes*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • beta Catenin / physiology*


  • CTNNB1 protein, human
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone
  • Dek protein, human
  • Oncogene Proteins
  • Poly-ADP-Ribose Binding Proteins
  • beta Catenin