Functional ablation of pRb activates Cdk2 and causes antiestrogen resistance in human breast cancer cells

Hernant Varma, Andrew J. Skildum, Susan E. Conrad

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25 Scopus citations


Estrogens are required for the proliferation of hormone dependent breast cancer cells, making estroge n receptor (ER) positive tumors amenable to endocrine therapies such as antiestrogens. However, resistance to these agents remains a significant cause of treatment failure. We previously demonstrated that inactivation of the retinoblastoma protein (pRb) family tumor suppressors causes antiestrogen resistance in MCF-7 cells, a widely studied model of estrogen responsive human breast cancers. In this study, we investigate the mechanism by which pRb inactivation leads to antiestrogen resistance. Cdk4 and cdk2 are two key cell cycle regulators that can phosphorylate and inactivate pRb, therefore we tested whether these kinases are required in cells lacking pRb function. pRb family members were inactivated in MCF-7 cells by expressing polyomavirus large tumor antigen (PyLT), and cdk activity was inhibited using the cdk inhibitors p16INK4A and p21Waf1/Clp1. Cdk4 activity was no longer required in cells lacking functional pRb, while cdk2 activity was required for proliferation in both the presence and absence of pRb function. Using inducible PyLT cell lines, we further demonstrated that pRb inactivation leads to increased cyclin A expression, cdk2 activation and proliferation in antiestrogen arrested cells. These results demonstrate that antiestrogens do not inhibit cdk2 activity or proliferation of MCF-7 cells in the absence of pRb family function, and suggest that antiestrogen resistant breast cancer cells resulting from pRb pathway inactivation would be susceptible to therapies that target cdk2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1256
JournalPloS one
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 5 2007


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