Characterization of BCAR4, a novel oncogene causing endocrine resistance in human breast cancer cells

J Cell Physiol. 2011 Jul;226(7):1741-9. doi: 10.1002/jcp.22503.


Resistance to the antiestrogen tamoxifen remains a major problem in the management of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. Knowledge on the resistance mechanisms is needed to develop more effective therapies. Breast cancer antiestrogen resistance 4 (BCAR4) was identified in a functional screen for genes involved in tamoxifen resistance. BCAR4 is expressed in 27% of primary breast tumors. In patients treated with tamoxifen for metastized disease high BCAR4 mRNA levels are associated with reduced clinical benefit and progression-free survival. Regarding tumor aggressiveness high BCAR4 mRNA levels are associated with a shorter metastasis free survival and overall survival. In the present study, we investigated the role of BCAR4 in endocrine resistance. Forced expression of BCAR4 in human ZR-75-1 and MCF7 breast cancer cells resulted in cell proliferation in the absence of estrogen and in the presence of various antiestrogens. Inhibition of estrogen receptor 1 (ESR1) expression with small interfering RNA (siRNA), implied that the BCAR4-induced mechanism of resistance is independent of ESR1. Highly conserved BCAR4 homologues of rhesus monkey, green monkey, and the less conserved common marmoset gene induced tamoxifen-resistant cell proliferation, in contrast to the distant BCAR4 homologues of bovine and rabbit. Injection of BCAR4-expressing ZR-75-1 cells into nude mice resulted in rapidly growing tumors. In silico analysis showed that BCAR4 mRNA is highly expressed in human placenta and oocyte, and absent in other normal tissues. In conclusion, BCAR4 is a strong transforming gene causing estrogen-independent growth and antiestrogen resistance, and induces tumor formation in vivo. Due to its restricted expression, BCAR4 may be a good target for treating antiestrogen-resistant breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / pharmacology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cattle
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Crk-Associated Substrate Protein / genetics
  • Crk-Associated Substrate Protein / metabolism*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm* / genetics
  • Estrogen Receptor Modulators / pharmacology*
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / genetics
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Haplorhini
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oncogenes
  • Oocytes / metabolism
  • Placenta / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA, Untranslated
  • Rabbits
  • Tamoxifen / pharmacology*
  • Time Factors
  • Transfection
  • Tumor Burden


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • BCAR4 non-coding RNA, human
  • Crk-Associated Substrate Protein
  • ESR1 protein, human
  • Estrogen Receptor Modulators
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Untranslated
  • Tamoxifen