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Research Article

Down-regulation of Enhancer of Zeste-2 decreases growth of estrogen receptor negative invasive breast carcinoma and requires BRCA1


Increased levels of EZH2, a critical regulator of cellular memory, are associated with negative estrogen receptor (ER) expression and disease progression in breast cancer. High levels of EZH2 signal the presence of metastasis and poor outcome in breast cancer patients. To test the hypothesis that deregulation of EZH2 contributes to ER negative breast cancer progression, EZH2 expression was inhibited in ER negative breast cancer cells MDA-MB-231 and CAL51 using a lentivirus system. EZH2 knockdown decreased proliferation and delayed the G2/M cell cycle transition, while not affecting apoptosis. In vivo, EZH2 down-regulation significantly decreased breast xenograft growth and improved survival. EZH2 knockdown up regulated BRCA1 protein. Of note, BRCA1 knockdown was sufficient to rescue the effects of EZH2 down-regulation in proliferation, G2/M arrest, and on the levels of hyperphosphorlated mitotic Cdc25C and Cyclin B1 proteins, crucial for entry into mitosis. Invasive ER negative breast carcinomas show significant overexpression of EZH2 and down-regulation of BRCA1 proteins. Taken together, we show that EZH2 plays a role in ER negative breast cancer progression in vivo and in vitro, and that BRCA1 is required for the proliferative effects of EZH2. Blockade of EZH2 may provide a prime target to prevent and/or halt ER negative breast cancer progression.