Regulation of KLF4 by posttranslational modification circuitry in endocrine resistance

Zhuan Zhou, Xinxin Song, Junlong (Jack) Chi, David R. Gius, Yi Huang, Massimo Cristofanilli, Yong Wan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


KLF4 plays an important role in orchestrating a variety of cellular events, including cell-fate decision, genome stability and apoptosis. Its deregulation is correlated with human diseases such as breast cancer and gastrointestinal cancer. Results from recent biochemical studies have revealed that KLF4 is tightly regulated by posttranslational modifications. Here we report a new finding that KLF4 orchestrates estrogen receptor signaling and facilitates endocrine resistance. We also uncovered the underlying mechanism that alteration of KLF4 by posttranslational modifications such as phosphorylation and ubiquitylation changes tumor cell response to endocrine therapy drugs. IHC analyses using based on human breast cancer specimens showed the accumulation of KLF4 protein in ER-positive breast cancer tissues. Elevated KLF4 expression significantly correlated with prognosis and endocrine resistance. Our drug screening for suppressing KLF4 protein expression led to identification of Src kinase to be a critical player in modulating KLF4-mediated tamoxifen resistance. Depletion of VHL (von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor), a ubiquitin E3 ligase for KLF4, reduces tumor cell sensitivity to tamoxifen. We demonstrated phosphorylation of VHL by Src enhances proteolysis of VHL that in turn leads to upregulation of KLF4 and increases endocrine resistance. Suppression of Src-VHL-KLF4 cascade by Src inhibitor or enhancement of VHL-KLF4 ubiquitination by TAT-KLF4 (371-420AAa) peptides re-sensitizes tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer cells to tamoxifen treatment. Taken together, our findings demonstrate a novel role for KLF4 in modulating endocrine resistance via the Src-VHL-KLF4 axis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109574
JournalCellular Signalling
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Endocrine
  • KLF4
  • Resistance
  • Src
  • VHL

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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