Environmental stress affects the activity of metabolic and growth factor signaling networks and induces autophagy markers in MCF7 breast cancer cells

Mol Cell Proteomics. 2014 Mar;13(3):836-48. doi: 10.1074/mcp.M113.034751. Epub 2014 Jan 14.


Phosphoproteomic techniques are contributing to our understanding of how signaling pathways interact and regulate biological processes. This technology is also being used to characterize how signaling networks are remodeled during disease progression and to identify biomarkers of signaling pathway activity and of responses to cancer therapy. A potential caveat in these studies is that phosphorylation is a very dynamic modification that can substantially change during the course of an experiment or the retrieval and processing of cellular samples. Here, we investigated how exposure of cells to ambient conditions modulates phosphorylation and signaling pathway activity in the MCF7 breast cancer cell line. About 1.5% of 3,500 sites measured showed a significant change in phosphorylation extent upon exposure of cells to ambient conditions for 15 min. The effects of this perturbation in modifying phosphorylation patterns did not involve random changes due to stochastic activation of kinases and phosphatases. Instead, exposure of cells to ambient conditions elicited an environmental stress reaction that involved a coordinated response to a metabolic stress situation, which included: (1) the activation of AMPK; (2) the inhibition of PI3K, AKT, and ERK; (3) an increase in markers of protein synthesis inhibition at the level of translation elongation; and (4) an increase in autophagy markers. We also observed that maintaining cells in ice modified but did not completely abolish this metabolic stress response. In summary, exposure of cells to ambient conditions affects the activity of signaling networks previously implicated in metabolic and growth factor signaling. Mass spectrometry data have been deposited to the ProteomeXchange with identifier PXD000472.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Autophagy*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Environment
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / metabolism
  • Female
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 / metabolism
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Phosphopeptides / chemistry
  • Phosphopeptides / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Temperature


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Phosphopeptides
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3