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Open Access Research article

The transcriptional responsiveness of LKB1 to STAT-mediated signaling is differentially modulated by prolactin in human breast cancer cells

Katja Linher-Melville and Gurmit Singh*

Author Affiliations

Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:415  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-415

Published: 9 June 2014

Abstract

Background

Liver kinase 1 (LKB1) is an important multi-tasking protein linked with metabolic signaling, also controlling polarity and cytoskeletal rearrangements in diverse cell types including cancer cells. Prolactin (PRL) and Signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) proteins have been associated with breast cancer progression. The current investigation examines the effect of PRL and STAT-mediated signaling on the transcriptional regulation of LKB1 expression in human breast cancer cells.

Methods

MDA-MB-231, MCF-7, and T47D human breast cancer cells, and CHO-K1 cells transiently expressing the PRL receptor (long form), were treated with 100 ng/ml of PRL for 24 hours. A LKB1 promoter-luciferase construct and its truncations were used to assess transcriptional changes in response to specific siRNAs or inhibitors targeting Janus activated kinase 2 (JAK2), STAT3, and STAT5A. Real-time PCR and Western blotting were applied to quantify changes in mRNA and protein levels. Electrophoretic mobility shift (EMSA) and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays were used to examine STAT3 and STAT5A binding to the LKB1 promoter.

Results

Consistent with increases in mRNA, the LKB1 promoter was up-regulated by PRL in MDA-MB-231 cells, a response that was lost upon distal promoter truncation. A putative GAS element that could provide a STAT binding site mapped to this region, and its mutation decreased PRL-responsiveness. PRL-mediated increases in promoter activity required signaling through STAT3 and STAT5A, also involving JAK2. Both STATs imparted basally repressive effects in MDA-MB-231 cells. PRL increased in vivo binding of STAT3, and more definitively, STAT5A, to the LKB1 promoter region containing the GAS site. In T47D cells, PRL down-regulated LKB1 transcriptional activity, an effect that was reversed upon culture in phenol red-free media. Interleukin 6, a cytokine activating STAT signaling in diverse cell types, also increased LKB1 mRNA levels and promoter activity in MDA-MB-231 cells.

Conclusions

LKB1 is differentially regulated by PRL at the level of transcription in representative human breast cancer cells. Its promoter is targeted by STAT proteins, and the cellular estrogen receptor status may affect PRL-responsiveness. The hormonal and possibly cytokine-mediated control of LKB1 expression is particularly relevant in aggressive breast cancer cells, potentially promoting survival under energetically unfavorable conditions.

Keywords:
Breast cancer; STAT3; STAT5; LKB1; Prolactin; Interleukin 6; Promoter; Transcriptional regulation