Transcriptional upregulation of the p21Cip1 promoter by STAT3 and nuclear ErbB2

Valerie Stone Hawthorne, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Over-expression of the receptor tyrosine kinase ErbB2 is prevalent in approximately 30% of human breast carcinomas and confers Taxol resistance. In breast cancer cells, Taxol induces tubulin polymerization and hyperstable microtubule formation. This in turn prematurely activates Cdc2 kinase allowing early entry into the G2/M phase of the cell cycle resultant in mitotic catastrophe followed by apoptosis. Over-expression of ErbB2 upregulates p21Cip1, which inhibits Cdc2 activation, and leads to Taxol resistance in patients. However, the mechanism of ErbB2-mediated p21 Cip1 upregulation is unclear. Here in this study, we investigated the mechanism of ErbB2 downstream signaling events leading to upregulation. The CDKN1A (p21Cip1) gene promoter contains numerous cis-elements including a Signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) Inducable Element (SIE) located at -679 kb. Our studies showed ErbB2 overexpressing cells had increased activated levels of STAT3, and therefore we hypothesized that STAT3 is responsible for the upregulation of the p21Cip1 promoter by ErbB2. EMSA and ChIP assays confirmed the binding of STAT3 to the p21Cip1 promoter and luciferase assays showed higher p21 Cip1 promoter activity in ErbB2 over-expressing transfectants when compared to parental cells, in a STAT3 binding site dependant manner. Additionally, reduced level of STAT3 led to reduced p21Cip1 protein expression and promoter activity indicating that both the STAT3 binding site and STAT3 protein are required for ErbB2-mediated p21Cip1 upregulation. Further investigation of ErbB2 downstream signaling showed increased Src kinase activity in ErbB2 over-expressing cells which was required for ErbB2-mediated STAT3 activation and p21Cip1 increase. Treatment of ErbB2 over-expressing resistant cells with STAT3 inhibitor peptides sensitized the cells to Taxol. In addition to classical signal transduction pathways, I identified a novel ErbB2 mediated regulatory mechanism of p21Cip1. I found that a nuclear ErbB2 and STAT3 complex binds directly to the p21Cip1 promoter offering a non-classical mechanism of p21Cip1 promoter regulation. These data suggest that ErbB2 over-expression can confer Taxol resistance of breast cancer cells by transcriptional upregulation of p21 Cip1 via activation of STAT3 by Src kinase and also by cooperation with nuclear ErbB2. The data suggest a potential clinical mechanism for STAT3 inhibitors in sensitizing ErbB2 over-expressing breast cancers to Taxol.

Subject Area

Cellular biology|Oncology

Recommended Citation

Hawthorne, Valerie Stone, "Transcriptional upregulation of the p21Cip1 promoter by STAT3 and nuclear ErbB2" (2006). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3249198.