β2-chimaerin is a Rac1-specific negative regulator and a candidate tumor suppressor in breast cancer but its precise function in mammary tumorigenesis in vivo is unknown. Here, we study for the first time the role of β2-chimaerin in breast cancer using a mouse model and describe an unforeseen role for this protein in epithelial cell-cell adhesion. We demonstrate that expression of β2-chimaerin in breast cancer epithelial cells reduces E-cadherin protein levels, thus loosening cell-cell contacts. In vivo, genetic ablation of β2-chimaerin in the MMTV-Neu/ErbB2 mice accelerates tumor onset, but delays tumor progression. Finally, analysis of clinical databases revealed an inverse correlation between β2-chimaerin and E-cadherin gene expressions in Her2+ breast tumors. Furthermore, breast cancer patients with low β2-chimaerin expression have reduced relapse free survival but develop metastasis at similar times. Overall, our data redefine the role of β2-chimaerin as tumor suppressor and provide the first in vivo evidence of a dual function in breast cancer, suppressing tumor initiation but favoring tumor progression.
Keywords: E-cadherin; Rac1; breast cancer; metastasis; β2-chimaerin.