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Progesterone receptor (PR) variants exist in breast cancer cells characterised as PR negative

Lookup NU author(s): Dr David Cork, Professor Thomas Lennard, Professor Alison Tyson-Capper


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Progesterone receptor (PR) expression is measured in breast cancer by immunohistochemistry using N-terminally targeted antibodies and serves as a biomarker for endocrine therapeutic decisions. Extensive PR alternative splicing has been reported which may generate truncated PR variant proteins which are not detected by current breast cancer screening or may alter the function of proteins detected in screening. However, the existence of such truncated PR variants remains controversial. We have characterised PR protein expression in breast cancer cell lines using commercial PR antibodies targeting different epitopes. Truncated PR proteins are detected in reportedly PR negative MDA-MB-231 cells using a C-terminally targeted antibody. Antibody specificity was confirmed by immunoblotting following siRNA knockdown of PR expression. We have further demonstrated that alternatively spliced PR mRNA is present in MDA-MB-231 cells and in reportedly PR-negative breast tumour tissue which could encode the truncated PR proteins detected by the C-terminal antibody. The potential function of PR variant proteins present in MDA-MB-231 cells was also assessed, indicating the ability of these PR variants to bind progesterone, interact with a nuclear PR co-factor and bind DNA. These findings suggest that alternative splicing may generate functional truncated PR variant proteins which are not detected by breast cancer screening using N-terminally targeted antibodies leading to misclassification as PR negative.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cork DMW, Lennard TWJ, Tyson-Capper AJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Tumor Biology

Year: 2012

Volume: 33

Issue: 6

Pages: 2329-2340

Print publication date: 01/12/2012

ISSN (print): 1010-4283

ISSN (electronic):

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s13277-012-0495-z


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