The MAPK phosphatase MKP1 (DUSP1) is overexpressed in many human cancers, including chemoresistant and radioresistant breast cancer cells, but its functional contributions in these settings are unclear. Here, we report that after cell irradiation, MKP1 translocates into mitochondria, where it prevents apoptotic induction by limiting accumulation of phosphorylated active forms of the stress kinase JNK. Increased levels of mitochondrial MKP1 after irradiation occurred in the mitochondrial inner membrane space. Notably, cell survival regulated by mitochondrial MKP1 was responsible for conferring radioresistance in HER2-overexpressing breast cancer cells, due to the fact that MKP1 serves as a major downstream effector in the HER2-activated RAF-MEK-ERK pathway. Clinically, we documented MKP1 expression exclusively in HER2-positive breast tumors, relative to normal adjacent tissue from the same patients. MKP1 overexpression was also detected in irradiated HER2-positive breast cancer stem-like cells (HER2+/CD44+/CD24-/low) isolated from a radioresistant breast cancer cell population after long-term radiation treatment. MKP1 silencing reduced clonogenic survival and enhanced radiosensitivity in these stem-like cells. Combined inhibition of MKP1 and HER2 enhanced cell killing in breast cancer. Together, our findings identify a new mechanism of resistance in breast tumors and reveal MKP1 as a novel therapeutic target for radiosensitization.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research