Cancer cells disseminate during very early and sometimes asymptomatic stages of tumor progression. Granted that biological barriers to tumorigenesis exist, there must also be limiting steps to early dissemination, all of which remain largely unknown. We report that the orphan nuclear receptor NR2F1/COUP-TF1 serves as a barrier to early dissemination. High-resolution intravital imaging revealed that loss of function of NR2F1 in HER2+ early cancer cells increased in vivo dissemination without accelerating mammary tumor formation. NR2F1 expression was positively regulated by the tumor suppressive MMK3/6-p38-MAPK pathway and downregulated by HER2 and Wnt4 oncogenic signaling. NR2F1 downregulation by HER2 in early cancer cells led to decreased E-cadherin expression and β-catenin membrane localization, disorganized laminin 5 deposition, and increased expression of CK14, TWIST1, ZEB1 and PRRX1. Our findings reveal the existence of an inhibitory mechanism of dissemination regulated by NR2F1 downstream of HER2 signaling.

Citation Format: Maria Soledad Sosa, Carolina Rodriguez-Tirado, Nupura Kale, Maria Carlini, Nitisha Shrivastava, Bassem Khalil, Javier Bravo-Cordero, Melissa Alexander, Jiayi Ji. NR2F1 is a barrier to early dissemination of pre-malignant mammary cells [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2021; 2021 Apr 10-15 and May 17-21. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2021;81(13_Suppl):Abstract nr 2837.