Interventions that alter cholesterol have differential impacts on hormone receptor positive- and negative-breast cancer risk and prognosis. This implies differential regulation or response to cholesterol within different breast cancer subtypes. We evaluated differences in side-chain hydroxycholesterol and liver X nuclear receptor signalling between Oestrogen Receptor (ER)-positive and ER-negative breast cancers and cell lines. Cell line models of ER-positive and ER-negative disease were treated with Liver X Receptor (LXR) ligands and transcriptional activity assessed using luciferase reporters, qPCR and MTT. Publicly available datasets were mined to identify differences between ER-negative and ER-positive tumours and siRNA was used to suppress candidate regulators. Compared to ER-positive breast cancer, ER-negative breast cancer cells were highly responsive to LXR agonists. In primary disease and cell lines LXRA expression was strongly correlated with its target genes in ER-negative but not ER-positive disease. Expression of LXR’s corepressors (NCOR1, NCOR2 and LCOR) was significantly higher in ER-positive disease relative to ER-negative, and their knock-down equalized sensitivity to ligand between subtypes in reporter, gene expression and viability assays. Our data support further evaluation of dietary and pharmacological targeting of cholesterol metabolism as an adjunct to existing therapies for ER-negative and ER-positive breast cancer patients.
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