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Function of AURKA protein kinase in the formation of vasculogenic mimicry in triple-negative breast cancer stem cells

Tumor cell vasculogenic mimicry (VM), a newly defined pattern of tumor blood supply, signifies the functional plasticity of aggressive cancer cells forming vascular networks. VM and cancer stem cells (CSCs) have been shown to be associated with tumor growth, local invasion, and distant metastasis. In our previous study, CSCs in triple-negative breast cancer were potential to participate in VM formation. In this study, breast CSCs were isolated from the triple-negative breast cancer cell line MDA-MB-231 by using mammosphere culture. Western blotting and reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction showed that mammosphere cells displayed an increased expression of AURKA protein kinase and stem cell marker c-myc and sox2. The VM formation by mammosphere cells was inhibited by AURKA knockdown or the addition of AURKA inhibitor MLN8237. In the meantime, MLN8237 induced the increased E-cadherin and decreased c-myc, sox2, and β-catenin expressions. The function of AURKA in VM formation was further confirmed using a xenograft-murine model. The results suggested that AURKA protein kinase is involved in VM formation of CSCs and may become a new treatment target in suppressing VM and metastasis of breast cancer.

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