Tumor necrosis factor alpha converting enzyme (TACE) mediates shedding of human epidermal growth factor receptor-4 (HER4). Recent data suggest that released HER4 intracellular domain (4ICD) induces apoptosis in breast cancer.
TACE expression, as measured by immunohistochemical analysis, was observed in 183 of 383 breast carcinomas, 39 of 217 ovarian carcinomas, and 16 of 24 and 17 of 24 hormone-sensitive and hormone- insensitive prostate carcinomas, respectively. HER4 expression was detected in breast carcinomas by using 2 antibodies recognizing an extracellular or intracellular epitope. TACE expression was predominantly seen in tumors with high levels of 4ICD and membranous HER4. Apoptotic activity was measured by the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated nick-end labeling (TUNEL) assay and cleaved caspase-3 staining in breast carcinomas. There was no significant association between cleaved caspase-3 or TUNEL positivity and 4ICD, whereas TUNEL positivity was seen predominantly in tumors with high levels of internalized HER4. The data presented herein show TACE expression in endocrine cancers and further support a role for TACE in breast cancer apoptosis.