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Arsenic, cadmium and neuron specific enolase (ENO2, γ-enolase) expression in breast cancer

Maureen A Soh1, Scott H Garrett1, Seema Somji1, Jane R Dunlevy2, Xu Dong Zhou1, Mary Ann Sens1, Chandra S Bathula1, Christina Allen1 and Donald A Sens1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pathology, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND, USA

2 Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND, USA

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Cancer Cell International 2011, 11:41  doi:10.1186/1475-2867-11-41

Published: 18 November 2011



Neuron specific enolase (ENO2, γ-enolase) has been used as a biomarker to help identify neuroendocrine differentiation in breast cancer. The goal of the present study was to determine if ENO2 expression in the breast epithelial cell is influenced by the environmental pollutants, arsenite and cadmium. Acute and chronic exposure of MCF-10A cells to As+3 and Cd+2 sufficient to allow colony formation in soft agar, was used to determine if ENO2 expression was altered by these pollutants.


It was shown that both As+3 and Cd+2 exposure caused significant increases in ENO2 expression under conditions of both acute and chronic exposure. In contrast, ENO1, the major glycolytic enolase in non-muscle and neuronal cells, was largely unaffected by exposure to either As+3 or Cd+2. Localization studies showed that ENO2 in the MCF-10A cells transformed by As+3 or Cd+2 had both a cytoplasmic and nuclear localization. In contrast, ENO1 was localized to the cytoplasm. ENO2 localized to the cytoplasm was found to co-localized with ENO1.


The results are the first to show that ENO2 expression in breast epithelial cells is induced by acute and chronic exposure to As+3 or Cd+2. The findings also suggest a possible link between As+3 and Cd+2 exposure and neuroendocrine differentiation in tumors. Overall, the results suggest that ENO2 might be developed as a biomarker indicating acute and/or chronic environmental exposure of the breast epithelial cell to As+3 and Cd+2.

Biomarker; arsenic; cadmium; breast cancer; breast epithelial cells; MCF-10A; enolase; ENO; neuron specific enolase; ENO2