Proline-directed phosphorylation is regulated by the prolyl isomerase Pin1, which plays a fundamental role in driving breast cancer stem-like cells (BCSCs). Rab2A is a small GTPase critical for vesicle trafficking. Here, we show that Pin1 increases Rab2A transcription to promote BCSC expansion and tumorigenesis in vitro and in vivo. Mechanistically, Rab2A directly interacts with and prevents dephosphorylation/inactivation of Erk1/2 by the MKP3 phosphatase, resulting in Zeb1 upregulation and β-catenin nuclear translocation. In cancer cells, Rab2A is activated via gene amplification, mutation or Pin1 overexpression. Rab2A overexpression or mutation endows BCSC traits to primary normal human breast epithelial cells, whereas silencing Rab2A potently inhibits the expansion and tumorigenesis of freshly isolated BCSCs. Finally, Rab2A overexpression correlates with poor clinical outcome in breast cancer patients. Thus, Pin1/Rab2A/Erk drives BCSC expansion and tumorigenicity, suggesting potential drug targets.
Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.