Rho GTPase Transcriptome Analysis Reveals Oncogenic Roles for Rho GTPase-Activating Proteins in Basal-like Breast Cancers

Cancer Res. 2016 Jul 1;76(13):3826-37. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-15-2923. Epub 2016 May 23.


The basal-like breast cancer (BLBC) subtype accounts for a disproportionately high percentage of overall breast cancer mortality. The current therapeutic options for BLBC need improvement; hence, elucidating signaling pathways that drive BLBC growth may identify novel targets for the development of effective therapies. Rho GTPases have previously been implicated in promoting tumor cell proliferation and metastasis. These proteins are inactivated by Rho-selective GTPase-activating proteins (RhoGAP), which have generally been presumed to act as tumor suppressors. Surprisingly, RNA-Seq analysis of the Rho GTPase signaling transcriptome revealed high expression of several RhoGAP genes in BLBC tumors, raising the possibility that these genes may be oncogenic. To evaluate this, we examined the roles of two of these RhoGAPs, ArhGAP11A (also known as MP-GAP) and RacGAP1 (also known as MgcRacGAP), in promoting BLBC. Both proteins were highly expressed in human BLBC cell lines, and knockdown of either gene resulted in significant defects in the proliferation of these cells. Knockdown of ArhGAP11A caused CDKN1B/p27-mediated arrest in the G1 phase of the cell cycle, whereas depletion of RacGAP1 inhibited growth through the combined effects of cytokinesis failure, CDKN1A/p21-mediated RB1 inhibition, and the onset of senescence. Random migration was suppressed or enhanced by the knockdown of ArhGAP11A or RacGAP1, respectively. Cell spreading and levels of GTP-bound RhoA were increased upon depletion of either RhoGAP. We have established that, via the suppression of RhoA, ArhGAP11A and RacGAP1 are both critical drivers of BLBC growth, and propose that RhoGAPs can act as oncogenes in cancer. Cancer Res; 76(13); 3826-37. ©2016 AACR.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Blotting, Western
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / pathology*
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Cytokinesis
  • Female
  • GTPase-Activating Proteins / genetics
  • GTPase-Activating Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Humans
  • Protein Binding
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*


  • ARHGAP11A protein, human
  • GTPase-Activating Proteins
  • mgcRacGAP
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins