J Eeckhoute, JS Carroll, TR Geistlinger, MI Torres-Arzayus, M Brown
Estrogen stimulates the proliferation of the most common type of human breast cancer that expresses estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha) through the activation of the cyclin D1 (CCND1) oncogene. However, our knowledge of ERalpha transcriptional mechanisms remains limited. Hence, it is still elusive why ERalpha ectopically expressed in ER-negative breast cancer cells (BCC) is functional on ectopic reporter constructs but lacks activity on many endogenous target genes, including CCND1. Here, we show that estradiol (E2) stimulation of CCND1 expression in BCC depends on a novel cell-type-specific enhancer downstream from the CCND1 coding region, which is the primary ERalpha recruitment site in estrogen-responsive cells. The pioneer factor FoxA1 is specifically required for the active chromatin state of this enhancer and as such is crucial for both CCND1 expression and subsequent cell cycle progression. Interestingly, even in BCC, CCND1 levels and proliferation are tightly controlled by E2 through the establishment of a negative feedforward loop involving the induction of NFIC, a putative tumor suppressor capable of directly repressing CCND1 transcription. Taken together, our results reveal an estrogen-regulated combinatorial network including cell-specific cis- and trans-regulators of CCND1 expression where ERalpha collaborates with other transcription factors associated with the ER-positive breast cancer phenotype, including FoxA1 and NFIC.