BRCA1 controls the cell division axis and governs ploidy and phenotype in human mammary cells

Zhengcheng He, Nagarajan Kannan, Oksana Nemirovsky, Helen Chen, Marisa Connell, Brian Taylor, Jihong Jiang, Linda M. Pilarski, Markus C. Fleisch, Dieter Niederacher, Miguel Angel Pujana, Connie J. Eaves, Christopher A. Maxwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


BRCA1 deficiency may perturb the differentiation hierarchy present in the normal mammary gland and is associated with the genesis of breast cancers that are genomically unstable and typically display a basal-like transcriptome. Oriented cell division is a mechanism known to regulate cell fates and to restrict tumor formation. We now show that the cell division axis is altered following shRNA-mediated BRCA1 depletion in immortalized but non-tumorigenic, or freshly isolated normal human mammary cells with graded consequences in progeny cells that include aneuploidy, perturbation of cell polarity in spheroid cultures, and a selective loss of cells with luminal features. BRCA1 depletion stabilizes HMMR abundance and disrupts cortical asymmetry of NUMA-dynein complexes in dividing cells such that polarity cues provided by cell-matrix adhesions were not able to orient division. We also show that immortalized mammary cells carrying a mutant BRCA1 allele (BRCA1 185delAG/+) reproduce many of these effects but in this model, oriented divisions were maintained through cues provided by CDH1+ cell-cell junctions. These findings reveal a previously unknown effect of BRCA1 suppression on mechanisms that regulate the cell division axis in proliferating, non-transformed human mammary epithelial cells and consequent downstream effects on the mitotic integrity and phenotype control of their progeny.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32461-32475
Number of pages15
Issue number20
StatePublished - 2017


  • BRCA1
  • Human mammary epithelial cells
  • Mitotic instability
  • Spindle orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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