Elevated tumor LDLR expression accelerates LDL cholesterol-mediated breast cancer growth in mouse models of hyperlipidemia
Obesity is associated with an increase in cancer-specific mortality in women with breast cancer. Elevated cholesterol, particularly low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), is frequently seen in obese women. Here, we aimed to determine the importance of elevated circulating LDL, and LDL receptor (LDLR) expression in tumor cells, on the growth of breast cancer using mouse models of hyperlipidemia. We describe two novel immunodeficient mouse models of hyperlipidemia (Rag1- / -/LDLR- / - and Rag1- / -/ApoE (apolipoprotein E)- / - mice) in addition to established immunocompetent LDLR- / - and ApoE- / - mice. The mice were used to study the effects of elevated LDL-C in human triple-negative (MDA-MB-231) and mouse Her2/Neu-overexpressing (MCNeuA) breast cancers. Tumors derived from MCNeuA and MDA-MB-231 cells had high LDLR expression and formed larger tumors in mice with high circulating LDL-C concentrations than in mice with lower LDL-C. Silencing the LDLR in the tumor cells led to decreased growth of Her2/Neu-overexpressing tumors in LDLR- / - and ApoE- / - mice, with increased Caspase 3 cleavage. Additionally, in vitro, silencing the LDLR led to decreased cell survival in serum-starved conditions, associated with Caspase 3 cleavage. Examining publically available human data sets, we found that high LDLR expression in human breast cancers was associated with decreased recurrence-free survival, particularly in patients treated with systemic therapies. Overall, our results highlight the importance of the LDLR in the growth of triple-negative and HER2-overexpressing breast cancers in the setting of elevated circulating LDL-C, which may be important contributing factors to the increased recurrence and mortality in obese women with breast cancer.