The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a determining factor in the tumor microenvironment that restrains or promotes malignant growth. In this report, we show how the molecular chaperone protein Hsp47 functions as a nodal hub in regulating an ECM gene transcription network. A transcription network analysis showed that Hsp47 expression was activated during breast cancer development and progression. Hsp47 silencing reprogrammed human breast cancer cells to form growth-arrested and/or noninvasive structures in 3D cultures, and to limit tumor growth in xenograft assays by reducing deposition of collagen and fibronectin. Coexpression network analysis also showed that levels of microRNA(miR)-29b and -29c were inversely correlated with expression of Hsp47 and ECM network genes in human breast cancer tissues. We found that miR-29 repressed expression of Hsp47 along with multiple ECM network genes. Ectopic expression of miR-29b suppressed malignant phenotypes of breast cancer cells in 3D culture. Clinically, increased expression of Hsp47 and reduced levels of miR-29b and -29c were associated with poor survival outcomes in breast cancer patients. Our results show that Hsp47 is regulated by miR-29 during breast cancer development and progression, and that increased Hsp47 expression promotes cancer progression in part by enhancing deposition of ECM proteins.
©2015 American Association for Cancer Research.