Cellular and molecular determinants of all‐ trans retinoic acid sensitivity in breast cancer: Luminal phenotype and RAR α expression

  • Centritto F
  • Paroni G
  • Bolis M
  • et al.
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© 2015 The Authors. Published under the terms of the CC BY 4.0 license. Forty-two cell lines recapitulating mammary carcinoma heterogeneity were profiled for all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) sensitivity. Luminal and ER<sup>+</sup> (estrogen-receptor-positive) cell lines are generally sensitive to ATRA, while refractoriness/low sensitivity is associated with a Basal phenotype and HER2 positivity. Indeed, only 2 Basal cell lines (MDA-MB157 and HCC-1599) are highly sensitive to the retinoid. Sensitivity of HCC-1599 cells is confirmed in xenotransplanted mice. Short-term tissue-slice cultures of surgical samples validate the cell-line results and support the concept that a high proportion of Luminal/ER<sup>+</sup> carcinomas are ATRA sensitive, while triple-negative (Basal) and HER2-positive tumors tend to be retinoid resistant. Pathway-oriented analysis of the constitutive gene-expression profiles in the cell lines identifies RARα as the member of the retinoid pathway directly associated with a Luminal phenotype, estrogen positivity and ATRA sensitivity. RARα3 is the major transcript in ATRA-sensitive cells and tumors. Studies in selected cell lines with agonists/antagonists confirm that RARα is the principal mediator of ATRA responsiveness. RARα over-expression sensitizes retinoid-resistant MDA-MB453 cells to ATRA anti-proliferative action. Conversely, silencing of RARα in retinoid-sensitive SKBR3 cells abrogates ATRA responsiveness. All this is paralleled by similar effects on ATRA-dependent inhibition of cell motility, indicating that RARα may mediate also ATRA anti-metastatic effects. We define gene sets of predictive potential which are associated with ATRA sensitivity in breast cancer cell lines and validate them in short-term tissue cultures of Luminal/ER<sup>+</sup> and triple-negative tumors. In these last models, we determine the perturbations in the transcriptomic profiles afforded by ATRA. The study provides fundamental information for the development of retinoid-based therapeutic strategies aimed at the stratified treatment of breast cancer subtypes.




Centritto, F., Paroni, G., Bolis, M., Garattini, S. K., Kurosaki, M., Barzago, M. M., … Garattini, E. (2015). Cellular and molecular determinants of all‐ trans retinoic acid sensitivity in breast cancer: Luminal phenotype and RAR α expression . EMBO Molecular Medicine, 7(7), 950–972. https://doi.org/10.15252/emmm.201404670

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