Differences in susceptibility to tumor necrosis factor alpha-induced apoptosis among MCF-7 breast cancer cell variants.Cancer Res. 1998 Nov 01; 58(21):4940-6.CR
Widespread use of MCF-7 human breast carcinoma cells as a model system for breast cancer has led to variations in these cells between different laboratories. Although several reports have addressed these differences in terms of proliferation and estrogenic response, variations in sensitivity to apoptosis have not yet been described. Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) has been shown to both induce apoptosis and inhibit proliferation in MCF-7 cells. We observed that TNF-alpha inhibited proliferation in MCF-7 cell variants from three different laboratories (designated M, L, and N). MCF-7 M cells were resistant to TNF-alpha-induced apoptosis, whereas MCF-7 L cells were moderately resistant to the effect of TNF-alpha. A third variant, MCF-7 N, underwent apoptosis when exposed to TNF-alpha. Analysis of the p55 TNF-alpha receptor (TNFR) 1 expression revealed the greatest expression in MCF-7 N cells, whereas the MCF-7 L and M cells expressed 89 and 67% of MCF-7 N cell TNFR1 levels, respectively. Ceramide generation occurred in all three variants in response to TNF-alpha treatment, with MCF-7 N cells expressing the greatest increase. Cleavage of the CPP32/caspase 3 substrate poly(ADP-ribose) was observed in MCF-7 N and L cells as early as 3 and 6 h, respectively, but poly(ADP-ribose) cleavage was not observed in MCF-7 M cells. The delayed protease activation in the L variant may represent the mechanism by which these cells display delayed sensitivity to TNF-a-induced apoptosis. Expression of the Bcl-2, Mcl-1, Bcl-X, Bax, and Bak proteins was analyzed to determine whether the differences in MCF-7 cell sensitivity to apoptosis could be correlated to the differential expression of these proteins. Whereas Bak, Bcl-X, and Mcl-1 levels were identical between variants, the levels of Bcl-2 were 3.5-3.8-fold higher and the levels of Bax were 1.5-1.7-fold lower in the resistant variants (M and L) as compared with those of the sensitive variant (N). Taken together, these results suggest that differences in susceptibility to TNF-alpha-induced apoptosis among MCF-7 breast cancer cell variants may be explained by differences in TNFR expression, ceramide generation, differential expression of the Bcl-2 family of proteins, and protease activation.