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GATA3 suppresses metastasis and modulates the tumour microenvironment by regulating microRNA-29b expression


Despite advances in our understanding of breast cancer, patients with metastatic disease have poor prognoses. GATA3 is a transcription factor that specifies and maintains mammary luminal epithelial cell fate, and its expression is lost in breast cancer, correlating with a worse prognosis in human patients. Here, we show that GATA3 promotes differentiation, suppresses metastasis and alters the tumour microenvironment in breast cancer by inducing microRNA-29b (miR-29b) expression. Accordingly, miR-29b is enriched in luminal breast cancers and loss of miR-29b, even in GATA3-expressing cells, increases metastasis and promotes a mesenchymal phenotype. Mechanistically, miR-29b inhibits metastasis by targeting a network of pro-metastatic regulators involved in angiogenesis, collagen remodelling and proteolysis, including VEGFA, ANGPTL4, PDGF, LOX and MMP9, and targeting ITGA6, ITGB1 and TGFB, thereby indirectly affecting differentiation and epithelial plasticity. The discovery that a GATA3-miR-29b axis regulates the tumour microenvironment and inhibits metastasis opens up possibilities for therapeutic intervention in breast cancer.

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Figure 1: GATA3 suppresses spontaneous and experimental breast cancer metastases to the lungs.
Figure 2: GATA3 induces a more luminal phenotype and suppresses cell migration.
Figure 3: miR-29b is induced by GATA3, enriched in luminal, good prognostic breast cancers, and associated with reduced metastatic potential.
Figure 4: miR-29b promotes luminal characteristics and loss of miR-29b induces a de-differentiated, mesenchymal phenotype.
Figure 5: miR-29b targets pro-metastatic genes involved in remodelling the tumour microenvironment and tumour differentiation.
Figure 6: miR-29b inhibits lung metastasis and loss of miR-29b increases lung metastasis.
Figure 7: miR-29b knockdown increases the level of expression of its target genes and miR-29b suppresses metastasis by repressing four microenvironmental targets.
Figure 8: miR-29b is an important downstream target of GATA3 that mediates its ability to promote luminal differentiation and suppress metastasis.

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We thank members of the Werb laboratory for discussions, P. Shahi, J. Dai and J. Tai for experimental assistance and E. Atamaniuc, Y. Yu, and H. Capili for technical assistance. We thank T. Rambaldo and M. Kissner for flow cytometer assistance, the UCSF Biological Imaging Development Center for microscopy assistance, J. Debnath, G. Bergers, and D. Sheppard for discussions, and A. Goga, V. Weaver, J. Mott, P. Gonzalez, K. Xie and E. Raines for reagents. We also thank C. Choi for discussion and support. This research was supported by funds from the National Cancer Institute (R01 CA129523 to Z.W.), a Developmental Research grant from the Bay Area Breast Cancer SPORE (P50 CA058207 to Z.W.), a Department of Defense Predoctoral Fellowship (W81XWH-10-1-0168 to J.C.) and the UCSF Medical Scientist Training Program (J.C.). We dedicate this work to the memory of L. Verber.

Author information




J.H.L. and A.B. contributed equally to this work. J.C. designed and performed experiments, with assistance from J.H.L., A.B., J-w.K. and S.P. Z.W. designed experiments and supervised research. J.C. and Z.W. wrote the manuscript, and all authors discussed the results and provided comments and feedback.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Zena Werb.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Time-lapse imaging of MDA231-Control breast cancer cells cultured in 3D Matrigel.

MDA231-Control cells were embedded into growth factor reduced Matrigel after re-aggregation overnight on low adhesion plates. 3D cultures were grown in serum-free media with 2.5 nM FGF2. Cells were imaged using a Zeiss Axiovert inverted brightfield microscope every 20 min for 48 h at 37 °C and 5% CO2. Images were assembled and played at 8 frames s−1. (MOV 824 kb)

Time-lapse imaging of MDA231-GATA3 breast cancer cells cultured in 3D Matrigel.

MDA231-GATA3 cells were embedded into growth factor reduced Matrigel after re-aggregation overnight on low adhesion plates. 3D cultures were grown in serum-free media with 2.5 nM FGF2. Cells were imaged using a Zeiss Axiovert inverted brightfield microscope every 20 min for 48 h at 37 °C and 5% CO2. Images were assembled and played at 8 frames s−1. (MOV 1018 kb)

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Chou, J., Lin, J., Brenot, A. et al. GATA3 suppresses metastasis and modulates the tumour microenvironment by regulating microRNA-29b expression. Nat Cell Biol 15, 201–213 (2013).

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