Cells (Jan 2021)

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin-Mediated Induction of Breast Cancer Cell Proliferation and Differentiation

  • Ilaria Dando,
  • Cristian Andres Carmona-Carmona,
  • Nicola Zampieri

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 10, no. 2
p. 264


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Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone that specifically binds to luteinizing hormone receptor (LHR) and exerts several roles, including the support of pregnancy and fetal gonadal steroidogenesis. Since hCG is also expressed by some tumor types, like breast cancer, many efforts have been made to study its role in neoplesia, with some studies showing a cancer-supportive role and others showing a cancer-protective role. A critical examination of the literature highlighted that the in vitro effect of hCG has been tested in the presence of fetal serum, which contains other gonadotropins, in the culture medium. Thus, we hypothesized that the use of serum in the cell culture medium might influence the cell response to the hCG treatment due to the presence of other hormones. Thus, we analyzed the in vitro effect of highly purified hCG on cell proliferation and the activation of the down-stream signal transduction pathway in three breast cancer cell lines, particularly focusing on MCF7, cultured in serum-deprived conditions. Our data show that hCG increases cell proliferation and activates the down-stream target Akt, together with a decrease of the LHR mRNA expression level. Finally, we also tested the differentiation capacity of hCG on MCF7 cancer stem cells (CSCs) and show that it favors the proliferation and differentiation of these cells, thus suggesting that hCG also renders cells more able to colonize and invade the organs.