An integrated bioinformatics approach identifies elevated cyclin E2 expression and E2F activity as distinct features of tamoxifen resistant breast tumors

PLoS One. 2011;6(7):e22274. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022274. Epub 2011 Jul 15.


Approximately half of estrogen receptor (ER) positive breast tumors will fail to respond to endocrine therapy. Here we used an integrative bioinformatics approach to analyze three gene expression profiling data sets from breast tumors in an attempt to uncover underlying mechanisms contributing to the development of resistance and potential therapeutic strategies to counteract these mechanisms. Genes that are differentially expressed in tamoxifen resistant vs. sensitive breast tumors were identified from three different publically available microarray datasets. These differentially expressed (DE) genes were analyzed using gene function and gene set enrichment and examined in intrinsic subtypes of breast tumors. The Connectivity Map analysis was utilized to link gene expression profiles of tamoxifen resistant tumors to small molecules and validation studies were carried out in a tamoxifen resistant cell line. Despite little overlap in genes that are differentially expressed in tamoxifen resistant vs. sensitive tumors, a high degree of functional similarity was observed among the three datasets. Tamoxifen resistant tumors displayed enriched expression of genes related to cell cycle and proliferation, as well as elevated activity of E2F transcription factors, and were highly correlated with a Luminal intrinsic subtype. A number of small molecules, including phenothiazines, were found that induced a gene signature in breast cancer cell lines opposite to that found in tamoxifen resistant vs. sensitive tumors and the ability of phenothiazines to down-regulate cyclin E2 and inhibit proliferation of tamoxifen resistant breast cancer cells was validated. Our findings demonstrate that an integrated bioinformatics approach to analyze gene expression profiles from multiple breast tumor datasets can identify important biological pathways and potentially novel therapeutic options for tamoxifen-resistant breast cancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Phenomena / drug effects
  • Biological Phenomena / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / classification
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Cyclins / genetics*
  • Cyclins / metabolism
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / drug effects*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics
  • E2F Transcription Factors / genetics
  • E2F Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Genes, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Humans
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Phenothiazines / pharmacology
  • Prochlorperazine / pharmacology
  • Small Molecule Libraries / pharmacology
  • Tamoxifen / pharmacology*


  • CCNE2 protein, human
  • Cyclins
  • E2F Transcription Factors
  • Phenothiazines
  • Small Molecule Libraries
  • Tamoxifen
  • Prochlorperazine