Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF beta) has both tumor-suppressive and tumor-promoting effects in breast cancer. These functions are partly mediated through Smads, intracellular transcriptional effectors of TGF beta. Smads form complexes with other DNA-binding transcription factors to elicit cell-type-dependent responses. Previously, we found that the collagen invasion and migration of pre-malignant breast cancer cells in response to TGF beta and epidermal growth factor (EGF) critically depend on multiple Jun and Fos components of the activator protein (AP)-1 transcription factor complex. Here we report that the same process is negatively regulated by Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)-dependent cJun phosphorylation. This was demonstrated by analysis of phospho-deficient, phospho-mimicking, and dimer-specific cJun mutants, and experiments employing a mutant version of the phosphatase MKP1 that specifically inhibits JNK. Hyper-phosphorylation of cJun by JNK strongly inhibited its ability to induce several Jun/Fos-regulated genes and to promote migration and invasion. These results show that MEK-AP-1 and JNK-phospho-cJun exhibit distinct pro- and anti-invasive functions, respectively, through differential regulation of Smad- and AP-1-dependent TGF beta target genes. Our findings are of importance for personalized cancer therapy, such as for patients suffering from specific types of breast tumors with activated EGF receptor-Ras or inactivated JNK pathways.
|Publication status||Published - 2019|