ETS transcription factor ELF5 induces lumen formation in a 3D model of mammary morphogenesis and its expression is inhibited by Jak2 inhibitor TG101348

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The loss of expression of a single gene can revert normal tissue to a malignant phenotype. For example, while normal breast has high lumenal expression of CEACAM1, the majority of breast cancers exhibit the early loss of this gene with the concurrent loss of their lumenal phenotype. MCF7 cells that lack CEACAM1 expression and fail to form lumena in 3D culture, regain the normal phenotype when transfected with CEACAM1. In order to probe the mechanism of this gain of function, we treated these cells with the clinically relevant Jak2 inhibitor TG101348 (TG), expecting that disruption of the prolactin receptor signaling pathway would interfere with the positive effects of transfection of MCF7 cells with CEACAM1. Indeed, lumen formation was inhibited, resulting in the down regulation of a set of genes, likely involved in the complex process of lumen formation. As expected, inhibition of the expression of many of these genes also inhibited lumen formation, confirming their involvement in a single pathway. Among the genes identified by the inhibition assay, ETS transcription factor ELF5 stood out, since it has been identified as a master regulator of mammary morphogenesis, and is associated with prolactin receptor signaling. When ELF5 was transfected into the parental MCF7 cells that lack CEACAM1, lumen formation was restored, indicating that ELF5 can replace CEACAM1 in this model system of lumenogenesis. We conclude that the event(s) that led to the loss of expression of CEACAM1 is epistatic in that multiple genes associated with a critical pathway were affected, but that restoration of the normal phenotype can be achieved with reactivation of certain genes at various nodal points in tissue morphogenesis.

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