TNFα is a pleiotropic cytokine which fuels tumor cell growth, invasion, and metastasis in some malignancies, while in others it induces cytotoxic cell death. However, the molecular mechanism by which TNFα exerts its diverse effects on breast cancer subtypes remains elusive. Using in vitro assays and mouse xenografts, we show here that TNFα contributes to the aggressive
properties of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) cell lines via upregulation of TNFAIP3(A20). In a striking contrast, TNFα induces a potent cytotoxic cell death in luminal (ER+) breast cancer cell lines which fail to upregulate A20 expression. Overexpression of A20 not only protects luminal breast cancer cell lines from TNFα-induced cell death via inducing HSP70-
mediated anti-apoptotic pathway but also promotes a robust EMT/CSC phenotype by activating the pStat3-mediated inflammatory signaling. Furthermore, A20 overexpression in luminal breast cancer cells induces aggressive metastatic properties in mouse xenografts via generating a permissive inflammatory microenvironment constituted by granulocytic-
MDSCs. Collectively, our results reveal a mechanism by which A20 mediates pleiotropic effects of TNFα playing role in aggressive behaviors of TNBC subtype while its deficiency results in TNFα-induced apoptotic cell death in luminal breast cancer subtype.