Interactions between progestins and heregulin (HRG) signaling pathways: HRG acts as mediator of progestins proliferative effects in mouse mammary adenocarcinomas

Maria Eugenia Balañá, Ruth Lupu, Leticia Labriola, Eduardo H. Charreau, Patricia V. Elizalde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The present study addressed links between progestin and heregulin (HRG) signaling pathways in mammary tumors. An experimental model of hormonal carcinogenesis, in which the synthetic progestin medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) induced mammary adenocarcinomas in female Balb/c mice, was used. MPA induced an in vivo up-regulation of HRG mRNA expression in progestin-dependent (HD) tumor lines. Mammary tumor progression to a progestin-independent (HI) phenotype was accompanied by a high constitutive expression of HRG. The HRG message arose from the tumor epithelial cells. Primary cultures of malignant epithelial cells from a HD tumor line were used to investigate HRG involvement on cell proliferation. HRG induced a potent proliferative effect on these cells and potentiated MPA mitogenic effects. Blocking endogenous HRG synthesis by antisense oligodeoxynucleotides (ASODNs) to HRG mRNA inhibited MPA-induced cell growth, indicating that HRG acts as a mediator of MPA-induced growth. High levels of ErbB-2 and ErbB-3 expression and low ErbB-4 levels were found in HD cells. Treatment of these cells with either MPA or HRG resulted in tyrosine phosphorylation of both ErbB-2 and ErbB-3. Furthermore, both HRG and MPA proliferative effects were abolished when cells were treated with ASODNs to ErbB-2 mRNA, providing evidence for a critical role of ErbB-2 in HRG-induced growth. Finally, blocking type I insulin-like growth factor receptor (IGF-IR) expression with ASODN resulted in the complete inhibition of HRG proliferative effect, demonstrating that a functional IGF-IR is required for HRG mitogenic activity. These results provide the first evidence of interactions between progestins and HRB/ErbB signal transduction pathways in mammary cancer and the first demonstration that IGF-IR is required for HRG proliferative effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6370-6379
Number of pages10
Issue number46
StatePublished - Nov 4 1999


  • Heregulin
  • Mouse mammary tumors
  • Progestin
  • Type I insulin-like growth factor receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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