Open Access Open Badges Research article

Integrity of the LXXLL motif in Stat6 is required for the inhibition of breast cancer cell growth and enhancement of differentiation in the context of progesterone

Min Wei12*, Qi He1*, Zhongyin Yang2, Zhiwei Wang12, Qing Zhang2, Bingya Liu2, Qinlong Gu2, Liping Su2, Yingyan Yu2, Zhenggang Zhu2 and Guofeng Zhang3

Author Affiliations

1 Breast Department, International Peace Maternity and Child Health Hospital, Shanghai Jiaotong University, Shanghai 200030, People’s Republic of China

2 Key Laboratory of Shanghai Gastric Neoplasms, Department of Surgery, Shanghai Institute of Digestive Surgery, Ruijin Hospital, School of Medicine, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai 200025, People’s Republic of China

3 Department of General Surgery, Tongji Hospital, Tongji University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200025, People’s Republic of China

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:10  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-10

Published: 8 January 2014



Progesterone is essential for the proliferation and differentiation of mammary gland epithelium. Studies of breast cancer cells have demonstrated a biphasic progesterone response consisting of an initial proliferative burst followed by sustained growth arrest. However, the transcriptional factors acting with the progesterone receptor (PR) to mediate the effects of progesterone on mammary cell growth and differentiation remain to be determined. Recently, it was demonstrated that signal transducer and activator of transcription 6 (Stat6) is a cell growth suppressor. Similar to progesterone-bound PR, Stat6 acts by inducing the expression of the G1 cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors p21 and p27. The possible interaction between Stat6 and progesterone pathways in mammary cells was therefore investigated in the present study.


ChIP and luciferase were assayed to determine whether Stat6 induces p21 and p27 expression by recruitment at the proximal Sp1-binding sites of the gene promoters. Immunoprecipitation and Western blotting were performed to investigate the interaction between Stat6 and PR-B. The cellular DNA content and cell cycle distribution in breast cancer cells were analyzed by FACS.


We found that Stat6 interacts with progesterone-activated PR in T47D cells. Stat6 synergizes with progesterone-bound PR to transactivate the p21 and p27 gene promoters at the proximal Sp1-binding sites. Moreover, Stat6 overexpression and knockdown, respectively, increased or prevented the induction of p21 and p27 gene expression by progesterone. Stat6 knockdown also abolished the inhibitory effects of progesterone on pRB phosphorylation, G1/S cell cycle progression, and cell proliferation. In addition, knockdown of Stat6 expression prevented the induction of breast cell differentiation markers, previously identified as progesterone target genes. Finally, Stat6 gene expression levels increased following progesterone treatment, indicating a positive auto-regulatory loop between PR and Stat6.


Taken together, these data identify Stat6 as a coactivator of PR mediating the growth-inhibitory and differentiation effects of progesterone on breast cancer cells.

Breast cancer; Stat6; p21; p27