Amplification and over-expression of MAP3K3 gene in human breast cancer promotes formation and survival of breast cancer cells

Hong Zhang, Yihui Fan, Ningling Ge, Xiaosong Wang, Wenjing Sun, Renfang Mao, Wen Bu, Chad J. Creighton, Pingju Zheng, Sanjeev Vasudevan, Lei An, Jinshu Yang, Yi Jue Zhao, Huiyuan Zhang, Xiao Nan Li, Pulivarthi H. Rao, Eastwood Leung, Yong Jie Lu, Joe W. Gray, Rachel SchiffSusan G. Hilsenbeck, C. Kent Osborne, Jianhua Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Gene amplifications in the 17q chromosomal region are observed frequently in breast cancers. An integrative bioinformatics analysis of this region nominated the MAP3K3 gene as a potential therapeutic target in breast cancer. This gene encodes mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase 3 (MAP3K3/MEKK3), which has not yet been reported to be associated with cancer-causing genetic aberrations. We found that MAP3K3 was amplified in approximately 8-20% of breast cancers. Knockdown of MAP3K3 expression significantly inhibited cell proliferation and colony formation in MAP3K3-amplified breast cancer cell lines MCF-7 and MDA-MB-361 but not in MAP3K3 non-amplified breast cancer cells. Knockdown of MAP3K3 expression in MAP3K3-amplified breast cancer cells sensitized breast cancer cells to apoptotic induction by TNFα and TRAIL, as well as doxorubicin, VP-16 and fluorouracil, three commonly used chemotherapeutic drugs for treating breast cancer. In addition, ectopic expression of MAP3K3, in collaboration with Ras, induced colony formation in both primary mouse embryonic fibroblasts and immortalized human breast epithelial cells (MCF-10A). Combined, these results suggest that MAP3K3 contributes to breast carcinogenesis and may endow resistance of breast cancer cells to cytotoxic chemotherapy. Therefore, MAP3K3 may be a valuable therapeutic target in patients with MAP3K3-amplified breast cancers, and blocking MAP3K3 kinase activity with a small molecule inhibitor may sensitize MAP3K3-amplified breast cancer cells to chemotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-86
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • MAP3K3
  • breast cancer
  • chemo-resistance
  • oncogene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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