Tamoxifen resistance is one of the major challenges for its medical uses in estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer. Aerobic glycolysis, an anomalous characteristic of glucose metabolism in cancer cells, has been shown to associate with the resistance to chemotherapeutic agents. It remains, however, largely unclear whether and how tamoxifen resistance contributes to aerobic glycolysis in breast cancer. Here, we report that tamoxifen resistance is associated with enhanced glycolysis in ER-positive breast cancer cells. We demonstrate that EREG, an agonist of EGFR, has an important role in enhancing glycolysis via activating EGFR signaling and its downstream glycolytic genes in tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer cells. We further show that EREG is a direct target of miR-186-3p and that downregulation of miR-186-3p by tamoxifen results in EREG upregulation in tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer cells. Importantly, systemic delivery of cholesterol-modified agomiR-186-3p to mice bearing tamoxifen-resistant breast tumors effectively attenuates both tumor growth and [18F]-fluoro-deoxyglucose ([18F]-FDG) uptake. Together, our results reveal a novel molecular mechanism of resistance to hormone therapies in which the miR-186-3p/EREG axis orchestrates tamoxifen resistance and aerobic glycolysis in ER-positive breast cancer, suggesting targeting miR-186-3p as a promising strategy for therapeutic intervention in endocrine-resistant breast tumors.
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We thank members of the Chen’s and Zhu’s labs for helpful comments. This work was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81272544 and 81502267) and Foundation and frontier science and technology project of Yuzhong district science and technology commission, Chongqing, China (20150121).