The 18-kDa translocator protein (TSPO) disrupts mammary epithelial morphogenesis and promotes breast cancer cell migration.


Mitochondria play important roles in cancer progression and have emerged as viable targets for cancer therapy. Increasing levels of the outer mitochondrial membrane protein, 18-kDa translocator protein (TSPO), are associated with advancing breast cancer stage. In particular, higher TSPO levels are found in estrogen receptor (ER)-negative breast tumors, compared with ER-positive tumors. In this study, we sought to define the roles of TSPO in the acquisition of breast cancer malignancy. Using a three-dimensional Matrigel culture system, we determined the impact of elevated TSPO levels on mammary epithelial morphogenesis. Our studies demonstrate that stable overexpression of TSPO in mammary epithelial MCF10A acini drives proliferation and provides partial resistance to luminal apoptosis, resulting in enlarged acinar structures with partially filled lumen that resemble early stage breast lesions leading to breast cancer. In breast cancer cell lines, TSPO silencing or TSPO overexpression significantly altered the migratory activity. In addition, we found that combination treatment with the TSPO ligands (PK 11195 or Ro5-4864) and lonidamine, a clinical phase II drug targeting mitochondria, decreased viability of ER-negative breast cancer cell lines. Taken together, these data demonstrate that increases in TSPO levels at different stages of breast cancer progression results in the acquisition of distinct properties associated with malignancy. Furthermore, targeting TSPO, particularly in combination with other mitochondria-targeting agents, may prove useful for the treatment of ER-negative breast cancer.


One biomarker makes reference to this publication:

  • Gallo KA
  • Wu X
PubMed ID
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PLoS One, 2013, 8 (8)