1. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 2, School of Pharmacy, University of Granada, 18011 Granada, Spain.
2. GENYO, Centre for Genomics and Oncological Research, Pfizer/University of Granada/Andalusian Regional Government, 18016 Granada, Spain.
3. Instituto de Investigación Biosanitaria ibs.GRANADA, University Hospitals of Granada-University of Granada, Spain; Conocimiento s/n 18100, Granada. Spain.
4. UGC de Oncología Médica, Hospital Universitario de Jaén, 23007 Jaén, Spain.
5. UGC de Anatomía Patológica, Hospital Universitario de Jaén, Jaén, Spain.
6. FIBAO, Hospital Universitario de Jaén, Servicio Andaluz de Salud, Jaén, Spain.
7. UGC de Oncología, Hospital Universitario “San Cecilio”, 18016 Granada, Spain
8. Department of Human Anatomy and Embryology, Biopathology and Regenerative Medicine Institute (IBIMER), University of Granada, 18011 Granada, Spain.
9. Excellence Research Unit “Modeling Nature” (MNat), University of Granada, Spain.
*These authors contributed equally to this work.
In triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), the pleiotropic NDRG1 (N-Myc downstream regulated gene 1) promotes progression and worse survival, yet contradictory results were documented, and the mechanisms remain unknown. Phosphorylation and localization could drive NDRG1 pleiotropy, nonetheless, their role in TNBC progression and clinical outcome was not investigated. We found enhanced p-NDRG1 (Thr346) by TGFβ1 and explored whether it drives NDRG1 pleiotropy and TNBC progression. In tissue microarrays of 81 TNBC patients, we identified that staining and localization of NDRG1 and p-NDRG1 (Thr346) are biomarkers and risk factors associated with shorter overall survival. We found that TGFβ1 leads NDRG1, downstream of GSK3β, and upstream of NF-κB, to differentially regulate migration, invasion, epithelial-mesenchymal transition, tumor initiation, and maintenance of different populations of cancer stem cells (CSCs), depending on the progression stage of tumor cells, and the combination of TGFβ and GSK3β inhibitors impaired CSCs. The present study revealed the striking importance to assess both total NDRG1 and p-NDRG1 (Thr346) positiveness and subcellular localization to evaluate patient prognosis and their stratification. NDRG1 pleiotropy is driven by TGFβ to differentially promote metastasis and/or maintenance of CSCs at different stages of tumor progression, which could be abrogated by the inhibition of TGFβ and GSK3β.
Keywords: Cancer stem cell, NDRG1, TGFβ, Triple-negative breast cancer, Tumor progression