HMGA1 promotes breast cancer angiogenesis supporting the stability, nuclear localization and transcriptional activity of FOXM1

Rossella Zanin, Silvia Pegoraro, Gloria Ros, Yari Ciani, Silvano Piazza, Fleur Bossi, Roberta Bulla, Cristina Zennaro, Federica Tonon, Dejan Lazarevic, Elia Stupka, Riccardo Sgarra, Guidalberto Manfioletti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Breast cancer is the most common malignancy in women worldwide. Among the breast cancer subtypes, triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most aggressive and the most difficult to treat. One of the master regulators in TNBC progression is the architectural transcription factor HMGA1. This study aimed to further explore the HMGA1 molecular network to identify molecular mechanisms involved in TNBC progression. Methods: RNA from the MDA-MB-231 cell line, silenced for HMGA1 expression, was sequenced and, with a bioinformatic analysis, molecular partners HMGA1 could cooperate with in regulating common downstream gene networks were identified. Among the putative partners, the FOXM1 transcription factor was selected. The relationship occurring between HMGA1 and FOXM1 was explored by qRT-PCR, co-immunoprecipitation and protein stability assays. Subsequently, the transcriptional activity of HMGA1 and FOXM1 was analysed by luciferase assay on the VEGFA promoter. The impact on angiogenesis was assessed in vitro, evaluating the tube formation ability of endothelial cells exposed to the conditioned medium of MDA-MB-231 cells silenced for HMGA1 and FOXM1 and in vivo injecting MDA-MB-231 cells, silenced for the two factors, in zebrafish larvae. Results: Here, we discover FOXM1 as a novel molecular partner of HMGA1 in regulating a gene network implicated in several breast cancer hallmarks. HMGA1 forms a complex with FOXM1 and stabilizes it in the nucleus, increasing its transcriptional activity on common target genes, among them, VEGFA, the main inducer of angiogenesis. Furthermore, we demonstrate that HMGA1 and FOXM1 synergistically drive breast cancer cells to promote tumor angiogenesis both in vitro in endothelial cells and in vivo in a zebrafish xenograft model. Moreover, using a dataset of breast cancer patients we show that the co-expression of HMGA1, FOXM1 and VEGFA is a negative prognostic factor of distant metastasis-free survival and relapse-free survival. Conclusions: This study reveals FOXM1 as a crucial interactor of HMGA1 and proves that their cooperative action supports breast cancer aggressiveness, by promoting tumor angiogenesis. Therefore, the possibility to target HMGA1/FOXM1 in combination should represent an attractive therapeutic option to counteract breast cancer angiogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number313
JournalJournal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 16 2019


  • Angiogenesis
  • FOXM1
  • Gene network
  • HMGA1
  • Triple-negative breast cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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