Breast cancer heterogeneity has made it challenging to identify mechanisms critical to the initial stages of their genesis in vivo. Here, we sought to interrogate the role of YB-1 in newly arising human breast cancers as well as in established cell lines. In a first series of experiments, we found that short-hairpin RNA-mediated knockdown of YB-1 in MDA-MB-231 cells blocked both their local tumour-forming and lung-colonising activity in immunodeficient mice. Conversely, upregulated expression of YB-1 enhanced the poor in vivo tumorigenicity of T47D cells. We then found that YB-1 knockdown also inhibits the initial generation in mice of invasive ductal carcinomas and ductal carcinomas in situ from freshly isolated human mammary cells transduced, respectively, with KRASG12D or myristoylated-AKT1. Interestingly, increased expression of HIF1α and G3BP1, two YB-1 translational targets and elements of a stress-adaptive programme, mirrored the levels of YB-1 in both transformed primary and established MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells.
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