Versican G3 domain modulates breast cancer cell apoptosis: a mechanism for breast cancer cell response to chemotherapy and EGFR therapy

PLoS One. 2011;6(11):e26396. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026396. Epub 2011 Nov 9.


Overexpression of EGFR and versican has been reported in association with breast cancers. Considered oncogenic, these molecules may be attractive therapeutic targets. Possessing anti-apoptotic and drug resistant properties, overexpression of these molecules is accompanied by selective sensitization to the process of apoptosis. In this study, we exogenously expressed a versican G3 construct in breast cancer cell lines and analyzed the effects of G3 on cell viability in fetal bovine serum free conditioned media and evaluated the effects of apoptotic agent C2-ceramide, and chemotherapeutic agents including Docetaxel, Doxorubicin, and Epirubicin. Versican G3 domain enhanced tumor cell resistance to apoptosis when cultured in serum free medium, Doxorubicin, or Epirubicin by up-regulating pERK and GSK-3β (S9P). However, it could be prevented by selective EGFR inhibitor AG 1478 and selective MEK inhibitor PD 98059. Both AG 1478 and PD 98059 enhanced expression of pSAPK/JNK, while selective JNK inhibitor SP 600125 enhanced expression of GSK-3β (S9P). Versican G3 promoted cell apoptosis induced by C2-ceramide or Docetaxel by enhancing expression of pSAPK/JNK and decreasing expression of GSK-3β (S9P), an observation blocked by AG 1478 or SP 6000125. Inhibition of endogenous versican expression by siRNA or reduction of versican G3's expression by linking G3 with 3'UTR prevented G3 modulated cell apoptosis. The dual roles of G3 in modulating breast cancer cell resistance to chemotherapeutic agents may in part explain a potential mechanism for breast cancer cell resistance to chemotherapy and EGFR therapy. The apoptotic effects of chemotherapeutics depend upon the activation and balance of down stream signals in the EGFR pathway. GSK-3β (S9P) appears to function as a key checkpoint in this balance of apoptosis and anti-apoptosis. Investigation and potential consideration of targeting GSK-3β (S9P) merits further study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthracenes / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Apoptosis / genetics*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Cycle / genetics
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / genetics
  • Docetaxel
  • Doxorubicin / pharmacology
  • Epirubicin / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 / genetics
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 / metabolism
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Quinazolines / pharmacology
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Sphingosine / analogs & derivatives
  • Sphingosine / pharmacology
  • Taxoids / pharmacology
  • Tyrphostins / pharmacology
  • Versicans / genetics
  • Versicans / metabolism*


  • Anthracenes
  • N-acetylsphingosine
  • Quinazolines
  • Taxoids
  • Tyrphostins
  • enhanced green fluorescent protein
  • Versicans
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Docetaxel
  • RTKI cpd
  • pyrazolanthrone
  • Epirubicin
  • Doxorubicin
  • GSK3B protein, human
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta
  • Gsk3b protein, mouse
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3
  • Sphingosine