Background: Zinc (Zn) hyper-accumulates in breast tumors and malignant cell lines compared to normal mammary epithelium. The mechanisms responsible for Zn accumulation and the consequence of Zn dysregulation are poorly understood. Methods: Microarrays were performed to assess differences in the expression of Zn transporters and metallothioneins (MTs) in human breast tumors and breast cancer cell lines. Real-time PCR and immunoblotting were employed to profile Zn transporter expression in representative luminal (T47D), basal (MDA-MB-231), and non-malignant (MCF10A) cell lines. Zn distribution in human tumors was assessed by X-ray fluorescence imaging. Zn distribution and content in cell lines was measured using FluoZin-3 imaging, and quantification and atomic absorption spectroscopy. Functional consequences of ZnT2 over-expression in MDA-MB-231 cells including invasion, proliferation, and cell cycle were measured using Boyden chambers, MTT assays, and flow cytometry, respectively. Results: Gene expression profiling of human breast tumors and breast cancer cell lines identified subtype-specific dysregulation in the Zn transporting network. X-ray fluorescence imaging of breast tumor tissues revealed Zn hyper-accumulation at the margins of Luminal breast tumors while Zn was more evenly distributed within Basal tumors. While both T47D and MDA-MB-231 cells hyper-accumulated Zn relative to MCF10A cells, T47D cells accumulated 2.5-fold more Zn compared to MDA-MB-231 cells. FluoZin-3 imaging indicated that Zn was sequestered into numerous large vesicles in T47D cells, but was retained in the cytoplasm and found in fewer and larger, amorphous sub-cellular compartments in MDA-MB-231 cells. The differences in Zn localization mirrored the relative abundance of the Zn transporter ZnT2; T47D cells over-expressed ZnT2, whereas MDA-MB-231 cells did not express ZnT2 protein due to proteasomal degradation. To determine the functional relevance of the lack of ZnT2 in MDA-MB-231cells, cells were transfected to express ZnT2. ZnT2 over-expression led to Zn vesicularization, shifts in cell cycle, enhanced apoptosis, and reduced proliferation and invasion. Conclusions: This comprehensive analysis of the Zn transporting network in malignant breast tumors and cell lines illustrates that distinct subtype-specific dysregulation of Zn management may underlie phenotypic characteristics of breast cancers such as grade, invasiveness, metastatic potential, and response to therapy.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Medicine
- Cancer Research