SIRT1 Positively Regulates Breast Cancer Associated Human Aromatase (CYP19A1) Expression

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Breast cancer remains one of the leading causes of death in women diagnosed with cancer. In breast cancer, aberrant expression of the CYP19A1 gene, which encodes the aromatase enzyme, contributes to increased intratumoral levels of estradiol. Regardless of whether this estrogen is produced by peripheral tissues or within specific subpopulations of cells within the breast tumor, it is clear that the aromatase enzymatic activity is critical for the growth of estrogen-dependent tumors. Currently, aromatase inhibitors have proven to be highly effective in blocking the growth of estrogen-dependent forms of breast cancer. CYP19A1 transcription is tightly controlled by 10 tissue-specific promoters. In breast cancer, however, aromatase transcription is driven by multiple promoters that somehow override the tissue-specific regulation of normal tissue. Here, we explore the role that the deacetylase, sirtuin-1 (SIRT1), plays in positively regulating aromatase in breast cancer. We demonstrate that the use of cambinol and the SIRT1/2 inhibitor VII, 2 small molecule inhibitors of SIRT1 and SIRT2, as well as small molecule inhibitors and small interfering RNA specific to SIRT1, all reduce the levels of aromatase mRNA. We further demonstrate that pharmacologic inhibition causes a marked reduction in aromatase protein levels. Additionally, by chromatin immunoprecipitation, we demonstrate that SIRT1 occupies the promoter regions PI.3/PII and PI.4, and its inhibition leads to increased acetylation of estrogen-related receptorα, a transcription factor that positively regulates CYP19A1 transcription in epithelial cells. Finally, we demonstrate by immunohistochemistry that SIRT1 is significantly up-regulated in invasive ductal carcinoma relative to normal tissue adjacent to tumor, further suggesting a role of SIRT1 in breast cancer. This work uncovers a new mechanism for the regulation of aromatase and provides rationale for further investigation of how the inhibition of specific sirtuins may provide a unique strategy for inhibiting aromatase that may complement or synergize with existing therapies.

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