Drivers and suppressors of triple-negative breast cancer

Wanfu Wu, Margaret Warner, Li Wang, Wei Wei He, Ruipeng Zhao, Xiaoxiang Guan, Cindy Botero, Bo Huang, Charlotte Ion, Charles Coombes, Jan Ake Gustafsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


To identify regulators of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), gene expression profiles of malignant parts of TNBC (mTNBC) and normal adjacent (nadj) parts of the same breasts have been compared. We are interested in the roles of estrogen receptor β (ERβ) and the cytochrome P450 family (CYPs) as drivers of TNBC. We examined by RNA sequencing the mTNBC and nadj parts of five women. We found more than a fivefold elevation in mTNBC of genes already known to be expressed in TNBC: BIRC5/survivin, Wnt-10A and -7B, matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), chemokines, anterior gradient proteins, and lysophosphatidic acid receptor and the known basal characteristics of TNBC, sox10, ROPN1B, and Col9a3. There were two unexpected findings: 1) a strong induction of CYPs involved in activation of fatty acids (CYP4), and in inactivation of calcitriol (CYP24A1) and retinoic acid (CYP26A1); and 2) a marked down-regulation of FOS, FRA1, and JUN, known tethering partners of ERβ. ERβ is expressed in 20 to 30% of TNBCs and is being evaluated as a target for treating TNBC. We used ERβ+ TNBC patient-derived xenografts in mice and found that the ERβ agonist LY500703 had no effect on growth or proliferation. Expression of CYPs was confirmed by immunohistochemistry in formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded (FFPE) TNBC. In TNBC cell lines, the CYP4Z1-catalyzed fatty acid metabolite 20-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid (20-HETE) increased proliferation, while calcitriol decreased proliferation but only after inhibition of CYP24A1. We conclude that CYP-mediated pathways can be drivers of TNBC but that ERβ is unlikely to be a tumor suppressor because the absence of its main tethering partners renders ERβ functionless on genes involved in proliferation and inflammation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2104162118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number33
StatePublished - Aug 17 2021


  • Breast cancer
  • Cytochrome P450
  • Estrogen receptor beta
  • Fatty acid oxidation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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