SMAD4 is a potential prognostic marker in human breast carcinomas

Nan Nan Liu, Yue Xi, Michael U. Callaghan, Andrew Fribley, Lakisha Moore-Smith, Jacquelyn W. Zimmerman, Boris Pasche, Qinghua Zeng, Yu Lin Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


SMAD4 is a downstream mediator of transforming growth factor beta. While its tumor suppressor function has been investigated as a prognostic biomarker in several human malignancies, its role as a prognostic marker in breast carcinoma is still undefined. We investigated SMAD4 expression in breast carcinoma samples of different histologic grades to evaluate the association between SMAD4 and outcome in breast cancer.We also investigated the role of SMAD4 expression status in MDA-MB-468 breast cancer cells in responding to TGF-β stimulation. SMAD4 expression was assessed in 53 breast ductal carcinoma samples and in the surrounding normal tissue from 50 of the samples using immunohistochemistry, Western blot, and real-time PCR. TGF-β-SMAD and non-SMAD signaling was assessed by Western blot in MDA-MB-468 cells with and without SMAD4 restoration. SMAD4 expression was reduced in ductal breast carcinoma as compared to surrounding uninvolved ductal breast epithelia (p <0.05). SMAD4 expression levels decreased from Grade 1 to Grade 3 ductal breast carcinoma as assessed by immunohistochemistry (p <0.05). Results were recapitulated by tissue array. In addition, immunohistochemistry results were further confirmed at the protein andmRNA level.We then found that non-SMAD MEK/MAPK signaling was significantly different between SMAD4 expressing MDA-MB-468 cells and SMAD4-null MDA-MB-468 cells. This is the first study indicating that SMAD4 plays a key role in shifting MAPK signaling. Further, we have demonstrated that SMAD4 has a potential role in the development of breast carcinoma and SMAD4 was a potential prognostic marker of breast carcinoma. Our findings further support the role of SMAD4 in breast carcinoma development. In addition, we observed an inverse relationship between SMAD4 levels and breast carcinoma histological grade. Our finding indicated that SMAD4 expression level in breast cancer cells played a role in responding non-SMAD signaling but not the canonic SMAD signaling. Further mechanistic studies are necessary to establish the role of SMAD4 in breast carcinoma prognosis and potential specific targeting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)641-650
Number of pages10
JournalTumor Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Ductal breast carcinoma
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Non-SMADsignaling
  • Prognosis
  • Quantitative real-time PCR
  • SMAD4
  • TGF-β
  • Tissue array
  • Western blot analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research


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