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Role of the microtubule-associated protein ATIP3 in cell migration and breast cancer metastasis

  • Molina Delgado, Angie
Publication Date
Sep 03, 2014
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Breast cancer is the most common malignancy in women, affecting one out of eight women worldwide. Even if most of the breast tumors are efficiently treated using targeted therapies, there is still a heterogeneous breast cancer subpopulation known as “triple-negative”, which is highly metastatic and, due to the absence of targeted therapies, of poor prognosis. The elucidation of the processes involved in tumor progression and metastasis remains an important challenge in the search for new therapies against this subtype of breast cancer. Previous results from the laboratory have shown that ATIP3, a major product of the candidate tumor suppressor gene MTUS1, is a microtubule associated protein (MAP), whose expression is decreased in 85% of high grade, 83% of triple negative and 62% of metastatic breast carcinomas. Re-expression of ATIP3 in breast cancer cells significantly reduces cell proliferation in vitro, and tumor growth in vivo. Based on these results, my PhD project aimed at evaluating the role of ATIP3 in tumor cell migration and cancer metastasis. In the first part of my thesis, I will present data showing that ATIP3 is a novel prognostic marker for breast cancer patients’ survival and a new anti-metastatic molecule. By means of DNA microarray analysis, we showed that low ATIP3 expression levels correlate with reduced overall survival of metastatic breast cancer patients. Using an in vivo model for cancer metastasis, we then showed that re-expression of ATIP3 reduces metastatic progression and lowers the number and size of metastatic foci. At the functional level, ATIP3 reduces breast cancer cell migration by reducing cell velocity and directionality. At the molecular level we further showed, using nocodazole washout experiments and MT growing ends tracking, that ATIP3 slows MT regrowth and decreases MT dynamics. Altogether, these studies indicate that ATIP3 is a novel MT stabilizing protein that controls the ability of MT tips to reach the cell cortex during migration, a mechanism that may account for reduced cell migration and metastasis. In the second part of my thesis, I will present data investigating the mechanisms by which ATIP3 regulates MT dynamics. To this end, we searched for new ATIP3-interacting partners. Interestingly, EB1, the core component of plus-end tracking proteins, was found to interact with ATIP3 not at the growing end of the MTs (as most EB1-interacting proteins), but mostly in the cytosol and at the MT lattice. The identification of the EB1-interacting domain of ATIP3 (termed CN) and further characterization of deletion mutants revealed that ATIP3-EB1 interaction is involved in impaired accumulation of EB1 at the plus-end. Based on these results and on FRAP analysis of EB1-GFP fluorescence recovery, a model was proposed in which the interaction between ATIP3 and EB1 may slower EB1 turnover at the MT plus-end, possibly by limiting EB1 association with its recognition site. In line with this model, in ATIP3-depleted cells dynamic EB1 molecules are more prone to accumulate at the growing end to increase MT dynamics. Relevance of this model in human pathology was then tested by evaluating ATIP3-EB1 expression levels in breast tumors, indicating that combined relative expression levels of both proteins may be considered as a prognostic marker of patient survival. Finally, in a third part of my thesis, I will present some preliminary data showing that ATIP3 may interact with the depolymerizing kinesin MCAK and the tumor suppressor APC, both of which are also well-known partners of EB1. The characterization and the implication of these interactions on ATIP3 functions (MT dynamics for MCAK interaction and cell polarity for APC interaction) remains to be investigated.

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