BackgroundMost breast cancers express the estrogen receptor alpha (ERα+), harbor wt TP53, depend on estrogen/ERK signalling for proliferation, and respond to anti-estrogens. However, concomittant activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)/MEK pathway promotes resistance by decreasing estrogen dependence. Previously, we showed that retroviral transduction of mutant p53 R175H into wt TP53 ERα+ MCF-7 cells induces epidermal growth factor (EGF)-independent proliferation, activation of the EGF receptor (p-EGFR) and some characteristics of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). PurposeTo investigate whether p53 inactivation augments ERα+ cell proliferation in response to restrictive estradiol, chemical MEK inhibition or metabolic inhibitors. ResultsIntroduction of mutant p53 R175H lowered expression of p53-dependent PUMA and p21WAF1, decreased E-cadherin and cytokeratin 18 associated with EMT, but increased the % of proliferating ERα+/Ki67 cells, diminishing estrogen dependence. These cells also exhibited higher proliferation in the presence of MEK-inhibitor UO126, reciprocally correlating with preferential susceptibility to the pyruvate analog 3-bromopyruvate (3-BrPA) without a comparable response to 2-deoxyglucose. p53 siRNA silencing by electroporation in wt TP53 MCF-7 cells also decreased estrogen dependence and response to MEK inhibition, while also conferring susceptibility to 3-BrPA. Conclusions(a) ERα+ breast cancer cells dysfunctional for TP53 which proliferate irrespective of low estrogen and chemical MEK inhibition are likely to increase metabolic consumption becoming increasingly susceptible to 3-BrPA; (b) targeting the pyruvate pathway may improve response to endocrine therapy in ERα+ breast cancer with p53 dysfunction.