Glucocorticoid receptor activation signals through forkhead transcription factor 3a in breast cancer cells

Wei Wu, Min Zou, Deanna R. Brickley, Travis Pew, Suzanne D. Conzen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Activation of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) plays a critical role in the stress response of virtually all cell types. Despite recent advances in large-scale genomic and proteomic data acquisition, identification of physiologically relevant molecular events downstream of nuclear hormone receptor activation remains challenging. By analyzing gene expression changes 30 min after dexamethasone (Dex) treatment, we previously found that immediate induction of serum and glucocorticoid-regulated kinase-1 (SGK-1) expression is required for GR-mediated mammary epithelial cell survival signaling. We now report that activation of the GR mediates Forkhead transcription factor 3a (FOXO3a) phosphorylation and inactivation in mammary epithelial cells. GR-mediated induction of SGK-1 expression is required for FOXO3a inactivation; additional growth factor stimulation is not required. To further explore the gene expression changes that occur downstream of GR-mediated FOXO3a inactivation, we analyzed temporal gene expression data and selected GR-down-regulated genes containing core FOXO3a binding motifs in their proximal promoters. This approach revealed several previously unrecognized transcriptional target genes of FOXO3a, including IGF binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3). Endogenous IGFBP-3 expression was confirmed to be dependent on the GR-SGK-1-FOXO3a signaling pathway. Moreover, GR activation decreased FOXO3a-induced apoptosis in SK-BR-3 breast cancer cells. Collectively, our data suggest that GR-mediated FOXO3a inactivation is an important mechanism contributing to glucocorticoid-mediated mammary epithelial cell survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2304-2314
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Endocrinology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology


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