Age-associated genes in human mammary gland drive human breast cancer progression

Xiang Gu, Bingzhi Wang, Haiyan Zhu, You Zhou, Aaron M. Horning, Tim H.M. Huang, Yidong Chen, Peter Houghton, Zhao Lai, Joel E. Michalek, Lu Zhe Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background: Aging is a comorbidity of breast cancer suggesting that aging-associated transcriptome changes may promote breast cancer progression. However, the mechanism underlying the age effect on breast cancer remains poorly understood. Method: We analyzed transcriptomics of the matched normal breast tissues from the 82 breast cancer patients in The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) dataset with linear regression for genes with age-associated expression that are not associated with menopause. We also analyzed differentially expressed genes between the paired tumor and non-tumor breast tissues in TCGA for the identification of age and breast cancer (ABC)-associated genes. A few of these genes were selected for further investigation of their malignancy-regulating activities with in vitro and in vivo assays. Results: We identified 148 upregulated and 189 downregulated genes during aging. Overlapping of tumor-associated genes between normal and tumor tissues with age-dependent genes resulted in 14 upregulated and 24 downregulated genes that were both age and breast cancer associated. These genes are predictive in relapse-free survival, indicative of their potential tumor promoting or suppressive functions, respectively. Knockdown of two upregulated genes (DYNLT3 and P4HA3) or overexpression of the downregulated ALX4 significantly reduced breast cancer cell proliferation, migration, and clonogenicity. Moreover, knockdown of P4HA3 reduced growth and metastasis whereas overexpression of ALX4 inhibited the growth of xenografted breast cancer cells in mice. Conclusion: Our study suggests that transcriptome alterations during aging may contribute to breast tumorigenesis. DYNLT3, P4HA3, and ALX4 play significant roles in breast cancer progression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number64
JournalBreast Cancer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 15 2020


  • ALX4
  • Aging
  • Breast cancer
  • DYNLT3
  • Gene expression
  • P4HA3
  • Relapse-free survival
  • Transcriptomics
  • Tumor progression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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