Phosphorylation independent eIF4E translational reprogramming of selective mRNAs determines tamoxifen resistance in breast cancer

Oncogene. 2020 Apr;39(15):3206-3217. doi: 10.1038/s41388-020-1210-y. Epub 2020 Feb 17.


Eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E (eIF4E) selectively promotes translation of mRNAs with atypically long and structured 5'-UTRs and has been implicated in drug resistance. Through genome-wide transcriptome and translatome analysis we revealed eIF4E overexpression could promote cellular activities mediated by ERα and FOXM1 signalling pathways. Whilst eIF4E overexpression could enhance the translation of both ERα and FOXM1, it also led to enhanced transcription of FOXM1. Polysome fractionation experiments confirmed eIF4E could modulate the translation of ERα and FOXM1 mRNA. The enhancement of FOXM1 transcription was contingent upon the presence of ERα, and it was the high levels of FOXM1 that conferred Tamoxifen resistance. Furthermore, tamoxifen resistance was conferred by phosphorylation independent eIF4E overexpression. Immunohistochemistry on 134 estrogen receptor (ER+) primary breast cancer samples confirmed that high eIF4E expression was significantly associated with increased ERα and FOXM1, and significantly associated with tamoxifen resistance. Our study uncovers a novel mechanism whereby phosphorylation independent eIF4E translational reprogramming in governing the protein synthesis of ERα and FOXM1 contributes to anti-estrogen insensitivity in ER+ breast cancer. In eIF4E overexpressing breast cancer, the increased ERα protein expression in turn enhances FOXM1 transcription, which together with its increased translation regulated by eIF4E, contributes to tamoxifen resistance. Coupled with eIF4E translational regulation, our study highlights an important mechanism conferring tamoxifen resistance via both ERα dependent and independent pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast / pathology
  • Breast / surgery
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant / methods
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics*
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / genetics
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factor-4E / genetics
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factor-4E / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Forkhead Box Protein M1 / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Humans
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Mastectomy
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA-Seq
  • Tamoxifen / pharmacology*
  • Tamoxifen / therapeutic use


  • EIF4E protein, human
  • ESR1 protein, human
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factor-4E
  • FOXM1 protein, human
  • Forkhead Box Protein M1
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Tamoxifen