Background: The T-box transcription factor TBX3 is necessary for early embryonic development and for the normal development of the mammary gland. Homozygous mutations, in mice, are embryonic lethal while heterozygous mutations result in perturbed mammary gland development. In humans, mutations that result in the haploinsufficiency of TBX3 causes Ulnar Mammary Syndrome (UMS) characterized by mammary gland hypoplasia as well as other congenital defects. In addition to its role in mammary gland development, various studies have also supported a role for Tbx3 in breast cancer development. TBX3 is over-expressed in various breast cancer cell lines as well as cancer tissue and has been found to contribute to breast cancer cell migration. Previous studies have suggested that TBX3 contributes to cancer development by its ability to bypass senescence by repressing the expression of p14(ARF)-tumor suppressor. Although many studies have shown that a dysregulation of TBX3 expression may contribute to cancer progression, no direct evidence shows TBX3 causes breast cancer.
Results: In this study, we created doxycycline inducible double transgenic mice (MMTV-rtTA;tet-myc-TBX3-IRES-Luciferase) to test whether TBX3 over-expression can induce tumor formation within the mammary gland. Although over-expression of TBX3, alone, did not induce tumor formation it did promote accelerated mammary gland development by increasing mammary epithelial cell proliferation. We also show that TBX3 directly binds to and represses NFκBIB, an inhibitor of the NF-κB pathway known to play a role in regulating cell proliferation. Lastly, we also show that the over-expression of TBX3 is associated with an increase in mammary stem-like cells.
Conclusions: Overall, our data suggests that over-expression of TBX3 may contribute to breast cancer development by promoting accelerated mammary gland development through the inhibition of the NF-κB pathway and stimulation of both mammary epithelial cell and stem-like cell proliferation.