Journal Article A homeobox protein, NKX6.1, up-regulates interleukin-6 expression for cell growth in basal-like breast cancer cells

Li, Wenzhao  ,  Itou, Junji  ,  Tanaka, Sunao  ,  Nishimura, Tomomi  ,  Sato, Fumiaki  ,  Toi, Masakazu

343 ( 2 )  , pp.177 - 189 , 2016-05-01 , Elsevier BV
Among breast cancer subtypes, basal-like breast cancer is particularly aggressive, and research on the molecules involved in its pathology might contribute to therapy. In this study, we found that expression of NKX6.1, a homeobox transcription factor, is higher in basal-like breast cancer than in other subtypes. In loss-of-function experiments on basal-like breast cancer cell lines, NKX6.1-depleted cells exhibited reduced cell growth. Because cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) is expressed in basal-like breast cancer, and increases cell growth, we analyzed expression levels of IL6, an IL-6 gene, and observed reduced IL6 expression in NKX6.1-depleted cells. In a reporter assay, IL6 promoter activity was reduced by loss of NKX6.1 function. A pull-down assay showed that NKX6.1 binds to the proximal region in IL6 promoter. These results indicate that NKX6.1 directly up-regulates IL6 expression. To investigate further, we established cells with forced expression of IL-6. We observed that exogenous IL-6 expression restored the reduced cell growth of NKX6.1-depleted cells. Furthermore, orthotopic xenografts showed that NKX6.1-depleted cells lost the capacity for tumor formation. We therefore conclude that NKX6.1 is a factor for IL-6-regulated growth and tumor formation in basal-like breast cancer. Our findings facilitate profound understanding of basal-like breast cancer, and the development of suitable therapy.

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