Maspin regulates different signaling pathways for motility and adhesion in aggressive breast cancer cells

Valerie A. Odero-Marah, Zhila Khalkhali-Ellis, Jirapat Chunthapong, Sumaira Amir, Richard E.B. Seftor, Elisabeth A. Seftor, Mary J.C. Hendrix

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Previous studies from our laboratory and others have demonstrated that treatment of breast cancer cells with exogenous maspin led to a significant decrease in cell motility, and an increase in cell adhesion to human fibronectin. However, the signaling mechanisms by which maspin, a putative tumor suppressor gene, might regulate cell motility and adhesion have not been previously addressed. In this study, we hypothesized that maspin could inhibit cell motility through the Rho GTPase pathway, specifically by affecting Rac activity. To test this intriguing hypothesis we utilized an experimental approach where invasive and metastatic MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells were either treated exogenously with recombinant maspin protein, or stably transfected with maspin. The data revealed decreased Rac1 activity within 4 h, and a decrease in the Rac1 effector, PAK1, within 12 h. In addition, an increase in PI3K and ERK1/2 activities within 1 h of recombinant maspin (rMaspin) treatment was observed, which returned to baseline level after 12 h. ERK activity was shown to be downstream of PI3K, as pretreatment with the PI3K inhibitor, LY294002, inhibited the stimulation of ERK activity by rMaspin. Furthermore, rMaspintreated cells displayed approximately a 30% increase in cell adhesion which was abrogated by pretreatment with LY294002. Increased focal adhesions and stress fibers were observed after 12 h of rMaspin treatment, when the cells were least motile and had reverted to a more epithelial-like phenotype. These data suggest that maspin may inhibit cell motility by regulating Rac1 and subsequently PAK1 activity, and promote cell adhesion via PI3K/ERK pathways. This study provides new insights into the diverse signaling pathways affected by maspin to suppress the metastatic phenotype, and could contribute to novel therapeutic approaches for the treatment of invasive and metastatic breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCancer Biology and Therapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast cancer
  • ERK
  • Maspin
  • P13K
  • Rac GTPase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research


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