Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Nuclear detection of Y-box protein-1 (YB-1) closely associates with progesterone receptor negativity and is a strong adverse survival factor in human breast cancer

Edgar Dahl1*, Abdelaziz En-Nia2, Frank Wiesmann1, Renate Krings3, Sonja Djudjaj2, Elisabeth Breuer1, Thomas Fuchs4, Peter J Wild5, Arndt Hartmann6, Sandra E Dunn7 and Peter R Mertens2*

Author Affiliations

1 Molecular Oncology Group, Institute of Pathology, Medical Faculty, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany

2 Department of Nephrology and Hypertension, Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg, Magdeburg, Germany

3 Department of Nephrology and Immunology, Medical Faculty, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany

4 Department of Computer Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

5 Institute of Surgical Pathology, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

6 Department of Pathology, University of Erlangen, Germany

7 Laboratory for Oncogenomic Research, Department of Pediatrics, Child and Family Research Institute, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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BMC Cancer 2009, 9:410  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-9-410

Published: 24 November 2009



Y-box binding protein-1 (YB-1) is the prototypic member of the cold shock protein family that fulfills numerous cellular functions. In the nucleus YB-1 protein orchestrates transcription of proliferation-related genes, whereas in the cytoplasm it associates with mRNA and directs translation. In human tumor entities, such as breast, lung and prostate cancer, cellular YB-1 expression indicates poor clinical outcome, suggesting that YB-1 is an attractive marker to predict patients' prognosis and, potentially, is suitable to individualize treatment protocols. Given these predictive qualities of YB-1 detection we sought to establish a highly specific monoclonal antibody (Mab) for diagnostic testing and its characterization towards outcome prediction (relapse-free and overall survival).


Hybridoma cell generation was carried out with recombinant YB-1 protein as immunogen and Mab characterization was performed using immunoblotting and ELISA with recombinant and tagged YB-1 proteins, as well as immunohistochemistry of healthy and breast cancer specimens. Breast tumor tissue array staining results were analyzed for correlations with receptor expression and outcome parameters.


YB-1-specific Mab F-E2G5 associates with conformational binding epitopes mapping to two domains within the N-terminal half of the protein and detects nuclear YB-1 protein by immunohistochemistry in paraffin-embedded breast cancer tissues. Prognostic evaluation of Mab F-E2G5 was performed by immunohistochemistry of a human breast cancer tissue microarray comprising 179 invasive breast cancers, 8 ductal carcinoma in situ and 37 normal breast tissue samples. Nuclear YB-1 detection in human breast cancer cells was associated with poor overall survival (p = 0.0046). We observed a close correlation between nuclear YB-1 detection and absence of progesterone receptor expression (p = 0.002), indicating that nuclear YB-1 detection marks a specific subgroup of breast cancer. Likely due to limitation of sample size Cox regression models failed to demonstrate significance for nuclear YB-1 detection as independent prognostic marker.


Monoclonal YB-1 antibody F-E2G5 should be of great value for prospective studies to validate YB-1 as a novel biomarker suitable to optimize breast cancer treatment.