The B-cell translocation gene-2 (BTG2), a p53-inducible gene, is suppressed in mammary epithelial cells during gestation and lactation. In human breast cancer, decreased BTG2 expression correlates with high tumor grade and size, p53 status, blood and lymph vessel invasion, local and metastatic recurrence and decrease in overall survival, suggesting that suppression of BTG2 has a critical role in disease progression. To analyze the role of BTG2 in breast cancer progression, BTG2 expression was knocked down in mammary epithelial cells. Suppression of BTG2 enhances the motility of cells in vitro and tumor growth and metastasis in vivo. The effects of BTG2 knockdown are mediated through stabilization of the human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER) ligands neuregulin and epiregulin and activation of the HER2 and HER3 receptors, leading to elevated AKT phosphorylation. Suppression of HER activation using the tyrosine kinase inhibitor lapatinib abrogates the effects of BTG2 knockdown, including the increased cell migration observed in vitro and the enhancement of tumorigenesis and metastasis in vivo. These results link BTG2-dependent effects on tumor progression to ErbB receptor signaling, and raise the possibility that targeted inhibition of this pathway may be relevant in the treatment of breast cancers that have reduced BTG2 expression.
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