Differentially regulated proteins in breast cancer chemotherapy : a thesis presented to Massey University in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Biochemistry
Intrinsic or acquired drug resistance of tumours is a major problem for successful therapy of breast cancer patients. The efficacy of doxorubicin, one of the most important and commonly used drugs in chemotherapy, can be severely compromised by a variety of unspecific mechanisms rendering tumours drug resistant. Little is known however, about the specific events taking place in response to doxorubicin treatment, which may repair doxorubicin-induced damage, leading to drug resistance. Doxorubicin is a topoisomerase II poison, which interferes with topoisomerase II enzymes during DNA replication, resulting in DNA double-strand breaks. Topoisomerase II enzymes mediate the passage of DNA strands by introducing transient DNA breaks, and are essential for changes in DNA topology during replication. The DNA lesions induced by the combination of topoisomerase II and doxorubicin can be repaired by either non homologous end-joining or homologous recombination repair, as both pathways are specifically responsible for the repair of DNA double-strand breaks. The DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit in non homologous end-joining and Rad51 in homologous recombination repair are essential for each of these pathways. If it was possible to specifically target these proteins or other antagonistic mechanisms of doxorubicin-induced cell death, which may be activated in response to doxorubicin treatment, chemosensitivity of tumours could be restored and chemotherapy made more effective. Hence it was the purpose of this study to investigate proteome-wide changes in protein expression in response to drug treatment, as well as specifically analysing alterations in the protein levels of the DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit and Rad51. Global changes in protein regulation of breast and breast cancer cells were investigated using mass spectrometric and electrophoretic analysis techniques. These experiments however, could not reproducibly identify any genuine drug-induced changes in protein levels, as only proteins of relatively high abundance could be analysed. Immunoblotting results however, showed that Rad51 was differentially regulated in a cell line- and drug dosage-dependent manner, while levels of the DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit remained largely unchanged. Furthermore, increased levels of topoisomerase II alpha protein were also detected. In addition, immunohistochemical analysis demonstrated that both Rad51 and the DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit could be independently overexpressed in breast tumours and therefore may represent potential targets for selectively enhancing chemosensitivity of breast cancers.