GM Trinca, ML Goodman, EK Papachristou, CS D'Santos, P Chalise, R Madan, C Slawson, CR Hagan
Emerging clinical trial data implicate progestins in the development of breast cancer. While the role for the progesterone receptor (PR) in this process remains controversial, it is clear that PR, a steroid-activated nuclear receptor, alters the transcriptional landscape of breast cancer. PR interacts with many different types of proteins, including transcriptional co-activators and co-repressors, transcription factors, nuclear receptors, and proteins that post-translationally modify PR (i.e., kinases and phosphatases). Herein, we identify a novel interaction between PR and O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT), the enzyme that catalyzes the addition of a single N-acetylglucosamine sugar, referred to as O-GlcNAc, to acceptor serines and threonines in target proteins. This interaction between PR and OGT leads to the post-translational modification of PR by O-GlcNAc. Moreover, we show that O-GlcNAcylated PR is more transcriptionally active on PR-target genes, despite the observation that PR messenger RNA and protein levels are decreased when O-GlcNAc levels are high. O-GlcNAcylation in breast cancer is clinically relevant, as we show that O-GlcNAc levels are higher in breast cancer as compared to matched normal tissues, and PR-positive breast cancers have higher levels of OGT. These data predict that under conditions where O-GlcNAc levels are high (breast cancer), PR, through an interaction with the modifying enzyme OGT, will exhibit increased O-GlcNAcylation and potentiated transcriptional activity. Therapeutic strategies aimed at altering cellular O-GlcNAc levels may have profound effects on PR transcriptional activity in breast cancer.