P21-activated kinase-1 phosphorylates and transactivates estrogen receptor-alpha and promotes hyperplasia in mammary epithelium.
Stimulation of p21-activated kinase-1 (Pak1) induces cytoskeleton reorganization and signaling pathways in mammary cancer cells. Here, we show that inhibition of Pak1 kinase activity by a dominant-negative fragment or by short interference RNA markedly reduced the estrogen receptor-alpha (ER) transactivation functions. To understand the role of Pak1 in mammary glands, we developed a murine model expressing constitutively active Thr423 glutamic acid Pak1 driven by the beta-lactoglobulin promoter. We show that mammary glands from these mice developed widespread hyperplasia associated with apocrine metaplasia and lobuloalveolar hyperdevelopment during lactation. Mammary tissues with active Pak1 also exhibited an increased activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase and stimulated transactivation functions of the ER and expression of endogenous ER target genes. Furthermore, Pak1 directly phosphorylated the activation function-2 domain of the ER at the N-terminal residue Ser305, and its mutation to Ala (S305A) abolished the Pak1-mediated phosphorylation and transactivation functions of the ER, while its mutation to glutamic acid (S305E) promoted transactivation activity of ER. These findings reveal a novel role for the Pak1-ER pathway in promoting hyperplasia in mammary epithelium.