Abstract

The mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular signal-regulated (MAPK/ERK) pathway is a well-characterized signaling pathway during the development of various cancer types. ERK1 and ERK2, the two kinase effectors of MAPK cascade, exhibit high similarity. However, it is still unknown whether these two kinases are functionally different or in contrast functionally redundant during the development of breast cancer. We found that ERK1 expression levels were significantly lower in basal breast cancer compared with luminal breast cancer and normal breast tissues. RNA sequencing data suggested that ERK1 was associated with Hippo signaling pathway and cell proliferation in breast cancer cells. The gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) further showed enrichment for YAP1 signaling pathway in breast cancer cell lines and tumors with low expression of ERK1. Silencing of ERK1 elevated YAP1 expression and TEAD activity in breast cancer cells. Additionally, ERK1 inhibited breast cancer cell proliferation via regulation of YAP1. The Kaplan-Meier analysis of data in patients with breast cancer suggested that, higher expression of ERK1 was associated with better prognosis, whereas, higher expression of ERK2 predicted poorer prognosis. These findings unveiled the role of ERK1 on regulation of YAP1 signaling pathway, indicating ERK1 as a negative regulator of breast cancer progression.