Background: Autoantibodies function as markers of tumorigenesis and have been proposed to enhance early detection of malignancies. We recently reported, using immunoscreening of a T7 complementary DNA (cDNA) library of breast cancer (BC) proteins with sera from patients with BC, the presence of autoantibodies targeting several mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)-encoded subunits of the electron transport chain (ETC) in complexes I, IV, and V.
Methods: In this study, we have characterized the role of Mitochondrial-Nuclear Retrograde Regulator 1 (MNRR1, also known as CHCHD2), identified on immunoscreening, in breast carcinogenesis. We assessed the protein as well as transcript levels of MNRR1 in BC tissues and in derived cell lines representing tumors of graded aggressiveness. Mitochondrial function was also assayed and correlated with the levels of MNRR1. We studied the invasiveness of BC derived cells and the effect of MNRR1 levels on expression of genes associated with cell proliferation and migration such as Rictor and PGC-1α. Finally, we manipulated levels of MNRR1 to assess its effect on mitochondria and on some properties linked to a metastatic phenotype.
Results: We identified a nuclear DNA (nDNA)-encoded mitochondrial protein, MNRR1, that was significantly associated with the diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) of the breast by autoantigen microarray analysis. In focusing on the mechanism of action of MNRR1 we found that its level was nearly twice as high in malignant versus benign breast tissue and up to 18 times as high in BC cell lines compared to MCF10A control cells, suggesting a relationship to aggressive potential. Furthermore, MNRR1 affected levels of multiple genes previously associated with cancer metastasis.
Conclusions: MNRR1 regulates multiple genes that function in cell migration and cancer metastasis and is higher in cell lines derived from aggressive tumors. Since MNRR1 was identified as an autoantigen in breast carcinogenesis, the present data support our proposal that both mitochondrial autoimmunity and MNRR1 activity in particular are involved in breast carcinogenesis. Virtually all other nuclear encoded genes identified on immunoscreening of invasive BC harbor an MNRR1 binding site in their promoters, thereby placing MNRR1 upstream and potentially making it a novel marker for BC metastasis.
Keywords: Autoantibodies; Breast cancer; Metastasis; Mitochondria; Nuclear encoded mitochondrial gene.