Targeting cholesterol-rich microdomains to circumvent tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer

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Tiwary, Richa
Yu, Weiping
deGraffenried, Linda A.
Sanders, Bob G.
Kline, Kimberly

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Breast Cancer Research


Introduction: Adjuvant treatment with tamoxifen substantially improves survival of women with estrogen-receptor positive (ER+) tumors. Tamoxifen resistance (TAMR) limits clinical benefit. RRR-α-tocopherol ether-linked acetic acid analogue (α-TEA) is a small bioactive lipid with potent anticancer activity. We evaluated the ability of α-TEA in the presence of tamoxifen to circumvent TAMR in human breast cancer cell lines. Methods: Two genotypically matched sets of TAM-sensitive (TAMS) and TAM-resistant (TAMR) human breast cancer cell lines were assessed for signal-transduction events with Western blotting, apoptosis induction with Annexin V-FITC/PI assays, and characterization of cholesterol-rich microdomains with fluorescence staining. Critical involvement of selected mediators was determined by using RNA interference and chemical inhibitors. Results: Growth-factor receptors (total and phosphorylated forms of HER-1 and HER-2), their downstream prosurvival mediators pAkt, pmTOR, and pERK1/2, phosphorylated form of estrogen receptor-α (pER-α at Ser-167 and Ser-118, and cholesterol-rich lipid microdomains were highly amplified in TAMR cell lines and enhanced by treatment with TAM. α-TEA disrupted cholesterol-rich microdomains, acted cooperatively with TAM to reduce prosurvival mediators, and induced DR5-mediated mitochondria-dependent apoptosis via an endoplasmic reticulum stress-triggered pro-death pJNK/CHOP/DR5 amplification loop. Furthermore, methyl-β-cyclodextrin (MβCD), a chemical disruptor of cholesterol rich microdomains, acted cooperatively with TAM to reduce prosurvival mediators and to induce apoptosis. Conclusions: Data for the first time document that targeting cholesterol-rich lipid microdomains is a potential strategy to circumvent TAMR, and the combination of α-TEA + TAM can circumvent TAMR by suppression of prosurvival signaling via disruption of cholesterol-rich lipid microdomains and activation of apoptotic pathways via induction of endoplasmic reticulum stress.


1 School of Biological Sciences/A5000, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, Austin, TX 78712, USA -- 2 Department of Nutritional Sciences/A2703, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, Austin, TX 78712, USA

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Tiwary, Richa, Weiping Yu, Linda A. deGraffenried, Bob G. Sanders, and Kimberly Kline. “Targeting Cholesterol-Rich Microdomains to Circumvent Tamoxifen-Resistant Breast Cancer.” Breast Cancer Research 13, no. 6 (November 24, 2011): R120. doi:10.1186/bcr3063.