The effect of increased intracellular cAMP on MCF-7 breast cancer cell growth was examined by treating cells with either forskolin, an activator of adenylate cyclase, or 8-[4-chlorophenylthio]-cAMP (8-CPT-cAMP), a cAMP analog. Compared to cells maintained in control medium, treatment with either 1 or 10 μM forskolin decreased cell growth by 17% and 68%, respectively, whereas treatment with 250 μM 8-CPT-cAMP decreased cell growth by 29%. To determine whether this effect of cAMP on cell growth was mediated by inhibition of the activity of extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1 and -2), two mitogen-activated protein kinases, the effect of cAMP on growth factor-induced ERK activity in MCF-7 cells was examined. Treatment with either insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) or epidermal growth factor (EGF) for 10 min stimulated a 4- to 8-fold increase in ERK1 and -2 activity. This effect of IGF-I and EGF was not inhibited by increased intracellular cAMP generated by pretreatment of the cells with 10 μM forskolin. Similarly, 10 μM forskolin had no effect on IGF-I- or EGF-induced ERK activity in cells treated with growth factor for 30 min. To determine whether cAMP inhibits other growth factor-mediated effects, its effect on the activity of the serum response element (SRE), a DNA promoter element whose activity is regulated by a variety of growth-promoting events, was examined. For these assays, MCF-7 cells were transiently transfected with pTK81-SRE-Luc, a luciferase fusion gene that contains the SRE cloned 5' to a minimal thymidine kinase promoter and the luciferase gene. Treatment with either IGF-I or EGF increased pTK81- SRE-Luc activity in a dose-dependent fashion. Pretreatment of cells with 10 μM forskolin decreased IGF-I- and EGF-stimulated luciferase activity by ~75%. An intermediate effect was observed using i μM forskolin. When intracellular cAMP levels were increased using 8-CPT-cAMP, similar results were obtained. SRE activity is dependent upon the activation by phosphorylation of a ternary complex factor; included among the ternary complex factors is Elk-1. When MCF-7 cells were cotransfected with a vector that expresses a Gal4/Elk-1 fusion protein and UAS-TK-Luc, a plasmid that contains two Gal4 DNA recognition sites cloned 5' to a thymidine kinase promoter and the luciferase gene, treatment with forskolin partially inhibited the activation of Elk-1 by IGF-I and EGF. These data demonstrate that in MCF-7 breast cancer cells, cAMP has no effect on IGF-I- or EGF- induced ERK activity, but it inhibits growth factor-induced transcription. Taken together with the effects of cAMP on IGF-I- and EGF-induced Elk-1 activation, these data suggest that the effect of cAMP on SRE activity occurs distal to ERK activation, possibly via inhibition of an ERK-independent pathway. Finally, these data indicate that the effect of increased intracellular cAMP on breast cancer growth may be mediated through inhibition of specific growth factor-induced effects, including gene transcription.
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