HER2 splice variants and their relevance in breast cancer

Main Article Content

Marianna Sasso
Francesca Bianchi
Valentina Ciravolo
Elda Tagliabue
Manuela Campiglio *
(*) Corresponding Author:
Manuela Campiglio | manuela.campiglio@istitutotumori.mi.it

Abstract

The HER2 gene amplification occurs in 20-30% of breast cancer and is correlated with a poorer prognosis compared to HER2-negative disease due to increased proliferation and metastatic potential. Two major types of receptor inhibitors have been developed for therapy and one for each categories is currently used in clinic: i) the humanized monoclonal antibody trastuzumab, directed against the HER2 extracellular domain; and ii) the EGFR/HER2 dual tyrosine kinase inhibitor lapatinib. However, patients may develop resistance to drugs and show disease progression. Several resistant mechanisms have been explored and are still under investigation. Here, we focus our attention on the role played by the alternative splicing forms of HER2 in mediating HER2 oncogenic activity and in conditioning the response to HER2 therapies. Three HER2 splice variants have been described so far; the p100 and the herstatin gave raised to two secreted proteins of 100 kd and 68 kd, respectively that act as cell growth inhibitors. Herstatin has been described for its ability to interrupt the constitutive HER2 activation, but also for its capacity to hamper HER2 dimerization with the others HER receptors. Interestingly, herstatin, present as mRNA and protein in non cancerous tissue in areas adjacent to breast carcinoma, is absent as protein in 75% of mammary tumors, which indicates that cancer cells are protected by some intrinsic mechanism against the putative growth-inhibitory effects of this naturally occurring molecule. The third splice form of HER2 gene is the Δ16HER2, encoding for a receptor lacking exon16, whose absence determines a constitutive active dimers with transforming activity in vitro and in vivo. The Δ16HER2 binds to trastuzumab to a less extend, due to conformational changes of the extracellular domain. The Δ16HER2 accounts for almost 9% of the total HER2 transcripts in human breast cancers and, additionally, Δ16HER2 levels are supposed to increase proportionally at the increasing of the HER2 wild-type copy numbers in human primary breast cancers. The availability of a specific assay to determine and quantify the expression levels of this splicing form and the availability of Δ16HER2 transgenic mice models made this variant as the most promising for the development of biodrugs.

Finally, HER2 carboxy-terminal fragments (CTFs), generated by alternative initiation of translation, were observed in breast cancer patients. In particular, 611-CTF was described to activate multiple signaling pathways since it is expressed as a constitutively active homodimer. Expression of 611-CTF led to development of aggressive and invasive mammary tumors and it was suggested to be a potent oncogene capable of promoting mammary tumor progression and metastasis.

Downloads month by month

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

Author Biographies

Marianna Sasso, Molecular Targeting Unit, Dept. of Experimental Oncology, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy

Molecular Targeting Unit, Dept. of Experimental Oncology, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy

Francesca Bianchi, Molecular Targeting Unit, Dept. of Experimental Oncology, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy

Molecular Targeting Unit, Dept. of Experimental Oncology, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy

Valentina Ciravolo, Molecular Targeting Unit, Dept. of Experimental Oncology, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy

Molecular Targeting Unit, Dept. of Experimental Oncology, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy

Elda Tagliabue, Molecular Targeting Unit, Dept. of Experimental Oncology, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy

Molecular Targeting Unit, Dept. of Experimental Oncology, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy

Manuela Campiglio, Molecular Targeting Unit, Dept. of Experimental Oncology, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy

Molecular Targeting Unit, Dept. of Experimental Oncology, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy