Overexpression of the c-erbB-2 gene-encoded p185 has been reported in approximately 30% of human breast cancers and has been correlated with lymph node metastasis and poor prognosis in breast cancer patients. To investigate whether overexpression of p185 can enhance the metastatic potential of human breast cancer cells, we have introduced the human c-erbB-2 gene into the very low p185-expressing MDA-MB-435 human breast cancer cells and established 435.eB transfectants that express higher levels of p185. In this study, we compared the metastatic phenotypes of the parental MDA-MB-435 cells and the 435.eB transfectants. In vivo experimental metastasis assays in which we injected MDA-MB-435 parental cells or 435.eB transfectants into the tail veins of ICR-SCID mice demonstrated that mice injected with p185-overexpressing 435.eB transfectants formed significantly more metastatic tumors than the mice injected with parental and control cells. The changes in experimental metastatic potential in vivo were accompanied by increased invasiveness in vitro. In addition, the secretion of basement membrane-degradative enzymes, which is an important step in the invasion and metastasis process, was also increased in the p185-overexpressing 435.eB transfectants. These results indicated that p185 overexpression can enhance the metastatic potential of MDA-MB-435 human breast cancer cells. To investigate whether enhanced metastatic potential in the p185-overexpressing 435.eB transfectants was the result of increased cancer cell growth and transformation potential, we compared the growth rate, anchorage-independent growth ability, and tumorigenicity of the 435.eB transfectants with that of the parental cells. The transfectants and the parental cells all had similar growth rates and anchorage-independent growth abilities and demonstrated similar tumorigenic potential. These findings suggest that c-erbB-2 is a metastasis-promoting gene for breast cancers that is distinct from other tumor-promoting genes in that the c-erbB-2 gene can enhance the intrinsic metastatic potentials of MDA-MB-435 cells without increasing their transformation abilities.
This research was in part supported by Cancer Center Core Support Grant P30-CA16672 from the National Cancer Institute and Grant CA60488 (to D. Y.) from the National Cancer Institute. J. Y. was an awardee of the Rosalie B. Hite predoctoral fellowship.