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RANK induces epithelial-mesenchymal transition and stemness in human mammary epithelial cells and promotes tumorigenesis and metastasis



RANK induces epithelial-mesenchymal transition and stemness in human mammary epithelial cells and promotes tumorigenesis and metastasis



Cancer Research 72(11): 2879-2888



Paracrine signaling through receptor activator of NF-κB (RANK) pathway mediates the expansion of mammary epithelia that occurs during pregnancy, and activation of RANK pathway promotes mammary tumorigenesis in mice. In this study we extend these previous data to human cells and show that the RANK pathway promotes the development of mammary stem cells and breast cancer. Overexpression of RANK (FL-RANK) in a panel of tumoral and normal human mammary cells induces the expression of breast cancer stem and basal/stem cell markers. High levels of RANK in untransformed MCF10A cells induce changes associated with both stemness and transformation, including mammary gland reconstitution, epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), increased migration, and anchorage-independent growth. In addition, spheroids of RANK overexpressing MCF10A cells display disrupted acinar formation, impair growth arrest and polarization, and luminal filling. RANK overexpression in tumor cells with nonfunctional BRCA1 enhances invasiveness in acinar cultures and increases tumorigenesis and metastasis in immunodeficient mice. High levels of RANK were found in human primary breast adenocarcinomas that lack expression of the hormone receptors, estrogen and progesterone, and in tumors with high pathologic grade and proliferation index; high RANK/RANKL expression was significantly associated with metastatic tumors. Together, our findings show that RANK promotes tumor initiation, progression, and metastasis in human mammary epithelial cells by increasing the population of CD44(+)CD24(-) cells, inducing stemness and EMT. These results suggest that RANK expression in primary breast cancer associates with poor prognosis.

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Accession: 055333129

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PMID: 22496457

DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-0044



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