Nat Commun. 2021 Jun 18;12(1):3742. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-23957-5.
Claudin-low breast cancer represents an aggressive molecular subtype that is comprised of mostly triple-negative mammary tumor cells that possess stem cell-like and mesenchymal features. Little is known about the cellular origin and oncogenic drivers that promote claudin-low breast cancer. In this study, we show that persistent oncogenic RAS signaling causes highly metastatic triple-negative mammary tumors in mice. More importantly, the activation of endogenous mutant KRAS and expression of exogenous KRAS specifically in luminal epithelial cells in a continuous and differentiation stage-independent manner induces preneoplastic lesions that evolve into basal-like and claudin-low mammary cancers. Further investigations demonstrate that the continuous signaling of oncogenic RAS, as well as regulators of EMT, play a crucial role in the cellular plasticity and maintenance of the mesenchymal and stem cell characteristics of claudin-low mammary cancer cells.