Endocrine resistance is a major obstacle to hormonal therapy for breast cancers. Although reduced expression of estrogen receptor-α (ER-α) is a known contributing factor to endocrine resistance, the mechanism of ER-α downregulation in endocrine resistance is still not fully understood. Here we report that CUE domain-containing protein-2 (CUEDC2), a ubiquitin-binding motif-containing protein, is a key factor in endocrine resistance in breast cancer. We show that CUEDC2 modulates ER-α protein stability through the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway. Through the study of specimens from a large cohort of subjects with breast cancer, we found a strong inverse correlation between CUEDC2 and ER-α protein expression. Notably, subjects with tumors that highly expressed CUEDC2 had poor responsiveness to tamoxifen treatment and high potential for relapse. We further show that ectopic CUEDC2 expression impaired the responsiveness of breast cancer cells to tamoxifen. Therefore, our findings suggest that CUEDC2 is a crucial determinant of resistance to endocrine therapies in breast cancer.
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