Dysregulated sphingolipid metabolism contributes to ER+ breast cancer progression and therapeutic response, whereas its underlying mechanism and contribution to tamoxifen resistance (TAMR) is unknown. Here, we establish sphingolipid metabolic enzyme CERK as a regulator of TAMR in breast cancer. Multi-omics analysis reveals an elevated CERK driven sphingolipid metabolic reprogramming in TAMR cells, while high CERK expression associates with worse patient prognosis in ER+ breast cancer. CERK overexpression confers tamoxifen resistance and promotes tumorigenicity in ER+ breast cancer cells. Knocking out CERK inhibits the orthotopic breast tumor growth of TAMR cells while rescuing their tamoxifen sensitivity. Mechanistically, the elevated EHF expression transcriptionally up-regulates CERK expression to prohibit tamoxifen-induced sphingolipid ceramide accumulation, which then inhibits tamoxifen-mediated repression on PI3K/AKT dependent cell proliferation and its driven p53/caspase-3 mediated apoptosis in TAMR cells. This work provides insight into the regulation of sphingolipid metabolism in tamoxifen resistance and identifies a potential therapeutic target for this disease.
Keywords: Breast cancer; CERK; Sphingolipid metabolism; Tamoxifen resistance.
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