Introduction: The estrogen receptor (ER) co-regulator proline glutamic acid and leucine-rich protein 1 (PELP1) is a proto-oncogene that modulates epigenetic changes on ER target gene promoters via interactions with lysine-specific histone demethylase 1 (KDM1). In this study, we assessed the therapeutic potential of targeting the PELP1-KDM1 axis in vivo using liposomal (1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine; DOPC) siRNA to downregulate PELP1 expression and KDM1 inhibitors, pargyline and N-((1S)-3-(3-(trans-2-aminocyclopropyl)phenoxy)-1-(benzylcarbamoyl)propyl)benzamide using preclinical models.
Methods: Preclinical xenograft models were used to test the efficacy of drugs in vivo. Ki-67 and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end-labeling immunohistochemical analysis of epigenetic markers was performed on tumor tissues. The in vitro effect of PELP1-KDM axis blockers was tested using proliferation, reporter gene, chromatin immunoprecipitation and real-time RT-PCR assays. The efficacy of the KDM1 targeting drugs alone or in combination with letrozole and tamoxifen was tested using therapy-resistant model cells.
Results: Treatment of ER-positive xenograft-based breast tumors with PELP1-siRNA-DOPC or pargyline reduced tumor volume by 58.6% and 62%, respectively. In a postmenopausal model, in which tumor growth is stimulated solely by local estrogen synthesis, daily pargyline treatment reduced tumor volume by 78%. Immunohistochemical analysis of excised tumors revealed a combined decrease in cellular proliferation, induction of apoptosis and upregulation of inhibitory epigenetic modifications. Pharmacological inhibition of KDM1 in vitro increased inhibitory histone mark dimethylation of histone H3 at lysine 9 (H3K9me2) and decreased histone activation mark acetylation of H3K9 (H3K9Ac) on ER target gene promoters. Combining KDM1 targeting drugs with current endocrine therapies substantially impeded growth and restored sensitivity of therapy-resistant breast cancer cells to treatment.
Conclusion: Our results suggest inhibition of PELP1-KDM1-mediated histone modifications as a potential therapeutic strategy for blocking breast cancer progression and therapy resistance.