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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Hornerin, an S100 family protein, is functional in breast cells and aberrantly expressed in breast cancer

Jodie M Fleming12*, Erika Ginsburg2, Shannon D Oliver1, Paul Goldsmith3 and Barbara K Vonderhaar2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biology, North Carolina Central University, 1801 Fayetteville Street, Mary Townes Science Complex, Rm 2247, Durham, NC 27707, USA

2 Mammary Biology and Tumorigenesis Laboratory, Center for Cancer Research, NCI, Bethesda, MD 20892-4254, USA

3 Antibody Production and Purification Unit, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA

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BMC Cancer 2012, 12:266  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-266

Published: 22 June 2012



Recent evidence suggests an emerging role for S100 protein in breast cancer and tumor progression. These ubiquitous proteins are involved in numerous normal and pathological cell functions including inflammatory and immune responses, Ca2+ homeostasis, the dynamics of cytoskeleton constituents, as well as cell proliferation, differentiation, and death. Our previous proteomic analysis demonstrated the presence of hornerin, an S100 family member, in breast tissue and extracellular matrix. Hornerin has been reported in healthy skin as well as psoriatic and regenerating skin after wound healing, suggesting a role in inflammatory/immune response or proliferation. In the present study we investigated hornerin’s potential role in normal breast cells and breast cancer.


The expression levels and localization of hornerin in human breast tissue, breast tumor biopsies, primary breast cells and breast cancer cell lines, as well as murine mammary tissue were measured via immunohistochemistry, western blot analysis and PCR. Antibodies were developed against the N- and C-terminus of the protein for detection of proteolytic fragments and their specific subcellular localization via fluorescent immunocytochemisty. Lastly, cells were treated with H2O2 to detect changes in hornerin expression during induction of apoptosis/necrosis.


Breast epithelial cells and stromal fibroblasts and macrophages express hornerin and show unique regulation of expression during distinct phases of mammary development. Furthermore, hornerin expression is decreased in invasive ductal carcinomas compared to invasive lobular carcinomas and less aggressive breast carcinoma phenotypes, and cellular expression of hornerin is altered during induction of apoptosis. Finally, we demonstrate the presence of post-translational fragments that display differential subcellular localization.


Our data opens new possibilities for hornerin and its proteolytic fragments in the control of mammary cell function and breast cancer.

Hornerin; S100 protein; Mammary gland; Breast cancer; Apoptosis; Protein fragmentation