Expression of peripheral benzodiazepine receptors (PBR) has been found in every tissue examined; however, it is most abundant in steroid-producing tissues. Although the primary function of PBR is the regulation of steroidogenesis, its existence in nonsteroidogenic tissues as well as in other cellular compartments including the nucleus suggests that there may be other roles for PBR. Our laboratory reported earlier a significant increase of PBR density in the nucleus of DMBA-induced malignant submandibular glands of rats, suggesting a role of PBR in nuclear events of peripheral tissues. Since then numerous studies have demonstrated the abundance of PBR in tumors.
Numerous studies implicate a role for cholesterol in the mechanisms underlying cell proliferation and cancer progression. Based on studies with a battery of human breast cancer cell lines and several human tissue biopsies, Hardwick et al. suggested that PBR expression, nuclear localization, and PBR-mediated cholesterol transport into the nucleus are involved in human breast cancer cell proliferation and aggressive phenotype expression. The purpose of the present study is to confirm this hypothesis by developing an animal breast cancer model and correlating the above events with the breast cancer.
Weanling rats were maintained on a diet containing animal protein (casein) for 30 days and then a single dose of DMBA in sesame oil (80 mg/kg) was administered by gavage to the animals. Control animals received the vehicle only. After 122 days of DMBA administration, the animals were sacrificed. All tumors were detected by palpation. Bmax of PBRs was 52.6% and 128.4% higher in the non-aggressive and aggressive cancer tissues, respectively, than that in normal tissues. Cholesterol uptake into isolated nuclei was found to be higher in both non-aggressive and aggressive tumor breast tissue than that in control tissue. There was also corresponding increase in Bmax of PBRs in the nucleus of cancer tissues. Furthermore, the nuclear nucleoside triphosphatase (NTPase) activity was found to be higher in aggressive tumor tissues than that in non-aggressive tumor tissues. In conclusion, these data suggest that PBR ligand binding, and PBR-mediated cholesterol transport into the nucleus may be involved in the development of mammary gland adenocarcinoma, thus participating in the advancement of the disease.