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BRCA1 transcriptionally regulates genes associated with the basal breast cancer phenotype

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Ten to twenty per cent of breast tumours exhibit a basal-like genetic profile and these tumours carry a poor prognosis. Breast tumours which contain germline mutations for BRCA1 commonly exhibit a molecular profile similar to basal breast tumours. BRCA1 is a tumour suppressor gene which is mutated in up to 5–10% of breast cancer cases and is involved in multiple cellular processes including DNA damage control, cell cycle checkpoint control, apoptosis, ubiquitination and transcriptional regulation.


Microarray-based profiling was carried out using the HCC1937EV and HCC1937BR breast cancer cell lines. Basal gene and protein expression levels were analysed by qRT-PCR and western blotting. ChIP analyses were performed and demonstrated that BRCA1 regulates basal gene expression through a transcriptional mechanism involving c-myc.


We have previously carried out microarray-based expression profiling to examine differences in gene expression when BRCA1 is reconstituted in BRCA1 mutated HCC1937 breast cancer cells. We observed that p-cadherin and the cytokeratin 5 and cytokeratin 17 genes, which are strongly correlated with the basal phenotype, are differentially expressed when BRCA1 is reconstituted. In addition, qRT-PCR and ChIP analysis of BRCA1 reconstituted cells show that BRCA1 represses the expression of these basal genes by a transcriptional mechanism. Furthermore, abrogation of endogenous BRCA1 protein in the T47D cell line using siRNA results in re-expression of these basal genes, suggesting that BRCA1 expression levels may be important in basal gene expression.

We have also demonstrated that BRCA1 is physically associated with the promoter regions of basal genes through an association with c-myc. Consequently, we have confirmed that siRNA inhibition of c-myc in T47D cells results in re-expression of these genes.


Our results suggest that BRCA1 is involved in the transcriptional regulation of genes associated with the basal phenotype and that BRCA1 controls basal gene expression through a transcriptional mechanism involving c-myc. Further work is now concentrating on defining the relationship between BRCA1 and basal gene expression and how this may affect clinical responses to breast cancer chemotherapy.


This work is funded by Breast Cancer Campaign.

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Quinn, J., James, C., Gorskii, J. et al. BRCA1 transcriptionally regulates genes associated with the basal breast cancer phenotype. Breast Cancer Res 8, S4 (2006) doi:10.1186/bcr1547

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  • Basal Gene
  • T47D Cell
  • Basal Breast
  • BRCA1 Expression
  • Transcriptional Mechanism