Volume 12 Supplement 1
Regulation of the apoptotic genes in breast cancer cells by the transcription factor CTCF
© BioMed Central Ltd. 2010
Published: 18 May 2010
CTCF is a highly conserved and ubiquitous transcription factor with versatile functions. We previously demonstrated that elevated protein levels of CTCF in breast cancer cells were associated with the specific anti-apoptotic function of CTCF. We used proteomics and microarray approaches to identify regulatory targets of CTCF specific for breast cancer cells. Among the CTCF identified targets were proteins involved in the control of apoptosis. A proapoptotic protein, Bax, negatively regulated by CTCF, was chosen for further investigation. Repression of the human Bax gene at the transcriptional level by CTCF in breast cancer cells was confirmed by real-time PCR. Two CTCF binding sites within the Bax promoter were identified by electrophoretic mobility shift assay and footprinting. In reporter assays, the Bax-luciferase reporter construct, containing CTCF-binding sites, was negatively regulated by CTCF. In vivo, CTCF occupied its binding sites in breast cancer cells and tissues, as confirmed by chromatin immunoprecipitation assay. Our findings suggest a possible mechanism of the specific CTCF anti-apoptotic function in breast cancer cells whereby CTCF is bound to the Bax promoter, resulting in repression of Bax and inhibition of apoptosis; depletion of CTCF leads to activation of Bax and apoptotic death. CTCF binding sites in the Bax promoter are unmethylated in all cells and tissues inspected. Therefore, specific CTCF interaction with the Bax promoter in breast cancer cells, and the functional outcome, may depend on a combination of epigenetic factors characteristic for these cells. Interestingly, CTCF appears to be a negative regulator of other proapoptotic genes (for example, Fas, Apaf-1, TP531NP1). Conversely, stimulating effects of CTCF on the anti-apoptotic genes (Bcl-2, Bag-3) have been observed. Taken together, these findings suggest that specific mechanisms have evolved in breast cancer cells to protect them from apoptosis; regulation of apoptotic genes by CTCF appears to be one of the resistance strategies.