The fourth member of the leucine-rich repeat-containing GPCR family (LGR4, frequently referred to as GPR48) and its cognate ligands, R-spondins (RSPOs) play crucial roles in the development of multiple organs as well as the survival of adult stem cells by activation of canonical Wnt signaling. Wnt/β-catenin signaling acts to regulate breast cancer; however, the molecular mechanisms determining its spatiotemporal regulation are largely unknown. In this study, we identified LGR4 as a master controller of Wnt/β-catenin signaling-mediated breast cancer tumorigenesis, metastasis, and cancer stem cell (CSC) maintenance. LGR4 expression in breast tumors correlated with poor prognosis. Either Lgr4 haploinsufficiency or mammary-specific deletion inhibited mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV)-PyMT- and MMTV-Wnt1-driven mammary tumorigenesis and metastasis. Moreover, LGR4 down-regulation decreased in vitro migration and in vivo xenograft tumor growth and lung metastasis. Furthermore, Lgr4 deletion in MMTV-Wnt1 tumor cells or knockdown in human breast cancer cells decreased the number of functional CSCs by ∼90%. Canonical Wnt signaling was impaired in LGR4-deficient breast cancer cells, and LGR4 knockdown resulted in increased E-cadherin and decreased expression of N-cadherin and snail transcription factor -2 (SNAI2) (also called SLUG), implicating LGR4 in regulation of epithelial-mesenchymal transition. Our findings support a crucial role of the Wnt signaling component LGR4 in breast cancer initiation, metastasis, and breast CSCs.
- Epithelial-mesenchymal transition
- Mammary tumorigenesis
- Tumor progression
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology