Document Type



Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences


Considerable epidemiological evidence demonstrates a positive association between artificial light at night (LAN) levels and incidence rates of breast cancer, suggesting that exposure to LAN is a risk factor for breast cancer. There is a 30-50% higher risk of breast cancer in the highest LAN exposed countries compared to the lowest LAN countries, and studies showing higher incidence of breast cancer among shift workers exposed to more LAN have led the International Agency for Research on Cancer to classify shift work as a probable human carcinogen. Nevertheless, the means by which light can affect breast cancer is still unknown. In this study we examined established human breast cancer cell lines and patients’ primary breast cancer tissues for expression of genetic components of phosphodiesterase 6 (PDE6), a cGMP-specific PDE involved in transduction of the light signal, and previously thought to be selectively expressed in photoreceptors. By microarray analysis we find highly significant expression of mRNA for the PDE6B, PDE6C, and PDE6D genes in both the cell lines and patients’ tissues, minimal expression of PDE6A and PDE6G and no expression of PDE6H. Using antibody specific for PDE6β, we find expression of PDE6B protein in a wide range of patients’ tissues by immunohistochemistry, and in MCF-7 breast cancer cells by immunofluorescence and Western blot analysis. Considerable expression of key circadian genes, PERIOD 2, CLOCK, TIMELESS, CRYPTOCHROME 1, and CRYPTOCHROME 2 was also seen in all breast cancer cell lines and all patients’ breast cancer tissues. These studies indicate that genes for PDE6 and control of circadian rhythm are expressed in human breast cancer cells and tissues and may play a role in transducing the effects of light on breast cancer.


originally published in :

SpringerPlus 2013, 2:680 doi:10.1186/2193-1801-2-680

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© 2013 Dong et al.; licensee Springer.

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