Polycomb complex protein BMI1 confers resistance to tamoxifen in estrogen receptor positive breast cancer
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We report that BMI1 promotes tamoxifen resistance in estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer (BC). BMI1 overexpression conferred MCF7 and TD47 cells resistance to tamoxifen; BMI1 knockdown sensitized the process. In MCF7-derived tamoxifen resistant cells, BMI1 expression was upregulated and BMI1 knockdown reduced the resistance. BMI1 is an oncogene; its oncogenic activity is attributed to BMI1-stimulated E3 ubiquitin ligase activity, a process that requires BMI1's ring finger (RF) domain. However, a BMI1 mutant without RF conferred tamoxifen resistance. Tamoxifen significantly reduced the growth of xenografts derived from MCF7 cells, but accelerated the growth of tumors produced by BMI1 overexpressing MCF7 cells. BMI1 enhances the pathways that promote resistance to endocrine therapy, including ER, androgen receptor, and MUC1. In patients with ER + BCs (n = 177), BMI1 expression was associated with BC recurrence. In the Curtis dataset consisting of ER + BCs (n = 1506) and ER- BCs (n = 474; cBioPortal), upregulations in BMI1 mRNA expression were correlated with ER + BCs; the upregulation was associated with a set of differentially expressed genes (DEGs). These DEGs were enriched with reductions in immunological processes, indicating a role of BMI1 in downregulation of the immune surveillance.
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