There is strong evidence to suggest that insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I may be important for tumor growth. Both the insulin and IGF-I receptors (IGF-IR) are overexpressed in breast cancer, and antibody blockade of the IGF-IR inhibits the growth of some breast cancer cell lines. Furthermore, expression of an insulin receptor (IR) in a normal mammary epithelial cell line causes insulin-dependent transformation. Functional inactivation of p53 is also very frequent in many tumors. In this paper, we investigated whether inactivation of p53 might be involved in the overexpression of the IR in malignancy, specifically breast cancer. We demonstrate a positive correlation between IR and IGF-IR levels and p53 overexpression in primary human breast malignancies. To examine possible mechanisms by which p53 may regulate IR gene expression, we show that p53 can repress the IR promoter and that a dominant-negative p53 (248Q) can de-repress the promoter in cells containing normal p53. The p53 effect was shown to be mediated by C/EBP and Sp1 transcription factors. We also documented that p53-null mice had elevated levels of Sp1, but not C/EBPα, and that insulin binding to liver extracts was increased compared to wild-type controls. These results suggest that p53 inactivation may lead to an up-regulation of genes, such as the IR, that are dependent on these transcription factors.
This work was supported by NIH Grants DK44643 (to N. J. G. W.) and DK02162 (B. L. S.), the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging (to B. L. S.), the Department of Veterans Affairs (to N. J. G. W.), and the American Diabetes Association (to N. J. G. W.). N. J. G. W. is a faculty member of the UCSD Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program.