Identification of the proteins that are associated with estrogen receptor (ER) status is a first step towards better understanding of the hormone-dependent nature of breast carcinogenesis. Although a number of gene expression analyses have been conducted, protein complement has not been systematically investigated to date. Because proteins are primary targets of therapeutic drugs, in this study, we have attempted to identify proteomic signatures that demarcate ER-positive and -negative breast cancers. Using highly enriched breast tumor cells, replicate analyses from 3 ERα+ and 3 ERα- human breast tumors resulted in the identification of 2,995 unique proteins with ≥2 peptides. Among these, a number of receptor tyrosine kinases and intracellular kinases that are abundantly expressed in ERα+ and ERα- breast cancer tissues were identified. Further, label-free quantitative proteome analysis revealed that 236 proteins were differentially expressed in ERα+ and ERα- breast tumors. Among these, 141 proteins were selectively up-regulated in ERα+, and 95 proteins were selectively up-regulated in ERα- breast tumors. Comparison of differentially expressed proteins with a breast cancer database revealed 98 among these have been previously reported to be involved in breast cancer. By Gene Ontology molecular function, dehydrogenase, reductase, cytoskeletal proteins, extracellular matrix, hydrolase, and lyase categories were significantly enriched in ERα+, whereas selected calcium-binding protein, membrane traffic protein, and cytoskeletal protein were enriched in ERα- breast tumors. Biological process and pathway analysis revealed that up-regulated proteins of ERα+ were overrepresented by proteins involved in amino acid metabolism, proteasome, and fatty acid metabolism, while up-regulated proteins of ERα- were overrepresented by proteins involved in glycolysis pathway. The presence and relative abundance of 4 selected differentially abundant proteins (liprin-α1, fascin, DAP5, and β-arrestin-1) were quantified and validated by immunohistochemistry. In conclusion, unlike in vitro cell culture models, the in vivo signaling proteins and pathways that we have identified directly from human breast cancer tissues may serve as relevant therapeutic targets for the pharmacological intervention of breast cancer.
Keywords: LC-MS/MS; breast cancer; estrogen receptor; fascin; laser capture microdissection.