Activation of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) results in diverse physiological effects depending on cell type. For example, glucocorticoids (GC) cause apoptosis in lymphocytes but can rescue mammary epithelial cells from growth factor withdrawal-induced death. However, the molecular mechanisms of GR-mediated survival remain poorly understood. In this study, a large-scale oligonucleotide screen of GR-regulated genes was performed. Several of the genes that were found to be induced 30 min after GR activation encode proteins that function in cell survival signaling pathways. We also demonstrate that dexamethasone pretreatment of breast cancer cell lines inhibits chemotherapy-induced apoptosis in a GR-dependent manner and is associated with the transcriptional induction of at least two genes identified in our screen, serum and GC-inducible protein kinase-1 (SGK-1) and mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatase-1 (MKP-1). Furthermore, GC treatment alone or GC treatment followed by chemotherapy increases both SGK-1 and MKP-1 steady-state protein levels. In the absence of GC treatment, ectopic expression of SGK-1 or MKP-1 inhibits chemotherapy-induced apoptosis, suggesting a possible role for these proteins in GR-mediated survival. Moreover, specific inhibition of SGK-1 or MKP-1 induction by the introduction of SGK-1- or MKP-1-small interfering RNA reversed the antiapoptotic effects of GC treatment. Taken together, these data suggest that GR activation in breast cancer cells regulates survival signaling through direct transactivation of genes that encode proteins that decrease susceptibility to apoptosis. Given the widespread clinical administration of dexamethasone before chemotherapy, understanding GR-induced survival mechanisms is essential for achieving optimal therapeutic responses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research