The significance and regulation of liver receptor homologue 1 (LRH-1, NR5A2), a tumour-promoting transcription factor in breast cancer cell lines, is unknown in clinical breast cancers. This study aims to determine LRH-1/NR5A2 expression in breast cancers and relationship with DNA methylation and tumour characteristics. In The Cancer Genome Atlas breast cancer cohort NR5A2 expression was positively associated with intragenic CpG island methylation (1.4-fold expression for fully methylated versus not fully methylated, p=0.01) and inversely associated with promoter CpG island methylation (0.6-fold expression for fully methylated versus not fully methylated, p=0.036). LRH-1 immunohistochemistry of 329 invasive carcinomas and ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) was performed. Densely punctate/coarsely granular nuclear reactivity was significantly associated with high tumour grade (p<0.005, p=0.033 in invasive carcinomas and DCIS respectively), negative estrogen receptor status (p=0.008, p=0.038 in overall cohort and invasive carcinomas, respectively), negative progesterone receptor status (p=0.003, p=0.013 in overall cohort and invasive carcinomas, respectively), HER2 amplification (overall cohort p=0.034) and non-luminal intrinsic subtype (p=0.018, p=0.038 in overall cohort and invasive carcinomas, respectively). These significant associations of LRH-1 protein expression with tumour phenotype suggest that LRH-1 is an important indicator of tumour biology in breast cancers and may be useful in risk stratification.
Keywords: DNA methylation; NR5A2; breast carcinoma; estrogen signalling; immunohistochemistry.