SPOCK1 Is a Novel Transforming Growth Factor-β-Induced Myoepithelial Marker That Enhances Invasion and Correlates with Poor Prognosis in Breast Cancer

PLoS One. 2016 Sep 14;11(9):e0162933. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0162933. eCollection 2016.


In addition to contraction, myoepithelia have diverse paracrine effects, including a tumor suppression effect. However, certain myoepithelial markers have been shown to contribute to tumor progression. Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) is involved in the transdifferentiation of fibroblasts to contractile myofibroblasts. We investigated whether TGF-β can upregulate potential myoepithelial markers, which may have functional and clinicopathological significance in breast cancer. We found that TGF-β induced SPOCK1 expression in MCF10A, MCF12A, and M10 breast cells and demonstrated SPOCK1 as a novel myoepithelial marker that was immunolocalized within or beneath myoepithelia lining ductolobular units. A functional study showed that overexpression of SPOCK1 enhanced invasiveness in mammary immortalized and cancer cells. To further determine the biological significance of SPOCK1 in breast cancer, we investigated the expression of SPOCK1 in 478 invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) cases through immunohistochemistry and correlated the expression with clinicopathological characteristics. SPOCK1 expression was significantly correlated with high pathological tumor size (P = 0.012), high histological grade (P = 0.013), the triple-negative phenotype (P = 0.022), and the basal-like phenotype (P = 0.026) and was correlated with a significantly poorer overall survival on univariate analysis (P = 0.001, log-rank test). Multivariate Cox regression analysis demonstrated that SPOCK1 expression maintained an independent poor prognostic factor of overall survival. Analysis of SPOCK1 expression on various non-IDC carcinoma subtypes showed an enrichment of SPOCK1 expression in metaplastic carcinoma, which is pathogenetically closely related to epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). In conclusion, we identified SPOCK1 as a novel TGF-β-induced myoepithelial marker and further demonstrated that SPOCK1 enhanced invasion in breast cancer cells and correlated with poor prognosis in breast cancer clinical samples. The enrichment of SPOCK1 expression in metaplastic carcinoma and the correlation between SPOCK1 expression and high histological grading and basal-like phenotypes in IDC evidence an association between SPOCK1 and EMT.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Blotting, Western
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Proteoglycans / physiology*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Survival Analysis
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / physiology


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Proteoglycans
  • SPOCK1 protein, human
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta

Grant support

This study was supported by the National Science Council, Taiwan. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.