Chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4) is involved in the maintenance normal stem cells and metastasis of cancer stem cells. NRF1 is one of the major transcription factor that controls transcription of CXCR4. The functional regulation of transcription of NRF1 target genes has not been explored in breast cancer. In this study, we have investigated whether transcriptional regulation of CXCR4 by NRF1 regulates estrogen-induced malignant transformation of breast epithelial cells to breast cancer stem cells (CSCs). We have previously shown that NRF1 may be involved in 17 β-estradiol (E2) induced malignant transformation of breast epithelial cells, however, the mechanism of transcriptional regulation of the NRF1 target genes remains unknown. In this study we showed that NRF1 and E2 jointly contributed in reprogramming of breast epithelial cells to CSCs. Levels of breast cancer stem cell markers (CD44+CD24+ALDH1+CD133+) were significantly increased by E2 treatment in NRF1 overexpressing cells compared to cells transfected with vector receiving E2. E2-induced increases of spheroid formation, cell survival and growth of cancer stem cells were modulated by functional gain or loss of NRF1. For morphological details we used a holographic microscope (HoloMonitor M4), we observed that E2 generated breast cancer stem cells with CD44+CD24+ALDH1+CD133+ markers produced large live spheroids in NRF1 overexpressing cells compared to cells transfected with vector receiving E2. Overexpression of NRF1 promoted the transition of E2-treated breast epithelial MCF-10A cells to mesenchymal stem cell-like phenotype. The ChIP qPCR, RT-qPCR, Western blotting and immunofluorescence microscopic assays showed that NRF1 mediated transcriptional changes of its target genes CXCR4, BNIP3, and DJ-1 correlated with malignant phenotypic changes. The suppression of NRF-1 activity induced growth arrest and apoptosis, and reduced stemness, growth and tumorigenic property of cancer stem cells. In summary, our findings for the first time showed that transcriptional regulation of CXCR4 by NRF1 may contribute in the induction of a pre-malignant phenotype by estrogen presumably by promoting generation of breast cancer stem cells. These data suggest NRF1 as an emerging potential target for therapeutic intervention against breast cancer.

Citation Format: Jayanta Kumar Das, Deodutta Roy. Transcriptional regulation of chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4) by nuclear respiratory factor 1 (NRF1) controls estrogen-induced malignant transformation of breast epithelial cells to breast cancer stem cells. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2016 Apr 16-20; New Orleans, LA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2016;76(14 Suppl):Abstract nr 3312.