VAPB (VAMP- associated protein B) is an ER protein that regulates multiple biological functions. Although aberrant expression of VAPB is associated with breast cancer, its function in tumor cells is poorly understood. In this report, we provide evidence that VAPB regulates breast tumor cell proliferation and AKT activation. VAPB protein expression is elevated in primary and metastatic tumor specimens, and VAPB mRNA expression levels correlated negatively with patient survival in two large breast tumor datasets. Overexpression of VAPB in mammary epithelial cells increased cell growth, whereas VAPB knockdown in tumor cells inhibited cell proliferation in vitro and suppressed tumor growth in orthotopic mammary gland allografts. The growth regulation of mammary tumor cells controlled by VAPB appears to be mediated, at least in part, by modulation of AKT activity. Overexpression of VAPB in MCF10A-HER2 cells enhances phosphorylation of AKT. In contrast, knockdown of VAPB in MMTV-Neu tumor cells inhibited pAKT levels. Pharmacological inhibition of AKT significantly reduced three-dimensional spheroid growth induced by VAPB. Collectively, the genetic, functional and mechanistic analyses suggest a role of VAPB in tumor promotion in human breast cancer.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We acknowledge the Vanderbilt Mass Spectrometry Research Center and Dr. Hayes McDonald for support on sample analyses and data interpretations and the Vanderbilt Translational Pathology Shared Resource for tumor section immunohistochemistry. Confocal microscopy was performed in part through the use of the VUMC Cell Imaging Shared Resource (supported by NIH grants CA68485, DK20593, DK58404, HD15052, DK59637 and EY08126). We also thank Mr. Yoonha Hwang for helping in generating some of the constructs. Temperature-sensitive VSVG-GFP construct was generously provided by Dr. Jennifer Lippencott-Swartz (National Institute of Health).