HER2 transactivation by the HER3 ligand heregulin (HRG) promotes an endocrine-resistant phenotype in the estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) luminal-B subtype of breast cancer. The underlying biological mechanisms that link them are, however, incompletely understood. Here, we evaluated the putative role of the lipogenic enzyme fatty acid synthase (FASN) as a major cause of HRG-driven endocrine resistance in ER+/HER2-negative breast cancer cells. MCF-7 cells engineered to stably overexpress HRG (MCF-7/HRG), an in vitro model of tamoxifen/fulvestrant-resistant luminal B-like breast cancer, showed a pronounced up-regulation of FASN gene/FASN protein expression. Autocrine HRG up-regulated FASN expression via HER2 transactivation and downstream activation of PI-3K/AKT and MAPK-ERK1/2 signaling pathways. The HRG-driven FASN-overexpressing phenotype was fully prevented in MCF-7 cells expressing a structural deletion mutant of HRG that is sequestered in a cellular compartment and lacks the ability to promote endocrine-resistance in an autocrine manner. Pharmacological inhibition of FASN activity blocked the estradiol-independent and tamoxifen/fulvestrant-refractory ability of MCF-7/HRG cells to anchorage-independently grow in soft-agar. In vivo treatment with a FASN inhibitor restored the anti-tumor activity of tamoxifen and fulvestrant against fast-growing, hormone-resistant MCF-7/HRG xenograft tumors in mice. Overall, these findings implicate FASN as a key enabler for endocrine resistance in HRG+/HER2-breast cancer and highlight the therapeutic potential of FASN inhibitors for the treatment of endocrine therapy-resistant luminal-B breast cancer.
- Endocrine resistance
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Computer Science Applications
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
- Inorganic Chemistry