Int J Cancer 2009 Sep;125(5):1038-44
Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA.
Leptin is overexpressed in human breast tumors and is produced by breast cancer cells in response to obesity-related stimuli. The leptin promoter polymorphism Lep-2548G/A can be associated with increased leptin secretion by adipocytes and elevated cancer risk. However, molecular mechanisms underlying the link between Lep-2548G/A and breast cancer have never been addressed. Lep-2548G/A is proximal to a binding site for the transcriptional factor Sp1. Furthermore nucleolin, a transcriptional repressor, can bind Sp1 or its consensus site. Consequently, we focused on the impact of Lep-2548G/A on Sp1- and nucleolin-dependent leptin transcription in breast cancer cells. The Lep-2548G/A was identified in a homozygous conformation in BT-474 and SK-BR-3 breast cancer cells, in a heterozygous conformation in MDA-MB-231 cells, and a wild-type Lep-2548G/G sequence was present in MCF-7 and ZR-75-1 cells. The occurrence of Lep-2548A/A and Lep-2548G/A coincided with high and intermediate leptin mRNA expression, respectively, while cells containing Lep-2548G/G expressed low leptin mRNA levels. We demonstrated that the existence of Lep-2548G/A improved efficient recruitment of Sp1 to DNA under insulin treatment, while Sp1 loading on DNA containing Lep-2548G/G was not insulin-dependent. In contrast, nucleolin binding to Lep-2548G/A was downregulated in response to insulin, while it was not regulated on Lep-2548G/G. The presence of Lep-2548G/A was studied in breast cancer epithelial cells by IHC and LCM. Interestingly, all 14 tumors expressing high leptin levels contained Lep-2548A/A. In conclusion, the occurrence of Lep-2548G/A can enhance leptin expression in breast cancer cells via Sp1- and nucleolin-dependent mechanisms and possibly contribute to intratumoral leptin overexpression.