Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Medical Sciences

Major Professor

Patricia A. Kruk

Committee Member

Narasaiah Kolliputi

Committee Member

Santo V. Nicosia

Committee Member

Marzenna Wiranowska


BRCA1, inflammation, interleukin-1, malignant transformation, ovarian cancer, ovarian surface epithelium


While the etiology of ovarian cancer (OC) is not completely understood, evidence suggests that chronic inflammation may promote malignant transformation. However, familial history remains the strongest risk factor for developing OC and is associated with germline BRCA1 mutations, such as the 185delAG mutation. Normal human ovarian surface epithelial cells expressing the 185delAG mutant, BRAT, exhibit molecular and pathological changes that may contribute to OC oncogenesis. In the current study, I sought to determine whether BRAT could promote an inflammatory phenotype by investigating BRAT's impact on the expression of the proinflammatory cytokine, Interleukin-1β (IL-1β). Using a culture model system of normal human ovarian surface epithelial (OSE) cells with and without the BRCA1 185delAG frameshift mutation, BRAT, I investigated BRAT's role in IL-1β expression. OSE cells stably expressing the 185delAG mutation and ovarian surface epithelial cells with endogenous 185delAG were analyzed for differential target gene expression by real time PCR, western blot, ELISA, luciferase reporter and siRNA assays. Normal and malignant breast epithelial cell lines transiently expressing BRAT were also evaluated by real time PCR to determine whether BRAT-induced IL-1β expression is tissue specific. BRAT-expressing OSE cells exhibited enhanced IL-1β mRNA and protein expression. However, expression of BRAT in all breast cell lines failed to significantly alter IL-1β expression levels so that BRAT-mediated IL-1β expression promoting a chronic inflammatory phenotype conducive to malignant transformation may be limited to the ovary. Secondly, since OSE cells expressing the BRCA1 185delAG mutation have increased levels of IL-1β that may contribute to malignant transformation, in a pilot study, I sought to assess whether elevated urinary levels of IL-1β are associated with OC as well as compare urinary IL-1β levels with clinical parameters. Urinary and serum levels of IL-1β were analyzed by ELISA and biostatistical analysis from a patient cohort consisting of healthy women (N=10), women with ovarian benign disease (N=23), women with OC (N=32), women with other benign gynecological conditions (N=22), and women with other gynecological cancers (N=6). Urinary IL-1β levels were elevated in patients with ovarian benign disease and a first degree family history of ovarian and/or breast cancer. Urinary IL-1β levels were also correlated with increased body mass index. Urinary and serum IL-1β levels were increased in ovarian benign and OC patient samples supporting the theory of elevated urinary IL-1β being associated with cancer progression. Lastly, I sought to begin early molecular characterization of BRCA1 185delAG to better understand its role in ovarian transformation. I isolated 185delAG protein expressed in E. coli and utilized web tools to analyze the amino acid sequence to determine the molecular and structural characteristics. The study results showed the predicted BRCA1 185delAG protein product is an ordered, self-aggregating, alpha helical protein structurally and molecularly distinct from wild-type BRCA1. The BRCA1 185delAG amino acid sequence contained domains with resemblance to the Peptidase M20 family. Isolation of the BRCA1 185delAG protein product will allow for further protein analysis to better understand its' oncogeneic functions; as well as, elucidate the mechanism of tissue-specific BRAT-mediated IL-1β expression since increased IL-1β expression may represent an early step contributing to OC.