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1.  An immunohistochemical perspective of PPARβ and one of its putative targets PDK1 in normal ovaries, benign and malignant ovarian tumours 
British Journal of Cancer  2008;98(8):1415-1424.
Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor β (PPARβ) is a member of the nuclear hormone receptor family and is a ligand-activated transcription factor with few known molecular targets including 3-phosphoinositide-dependent protein kinase 1(PDK1). In view of the association of PPARβ and PDK1 with cancer, we have examined the expression of PPARβ and PDK1 in normal ovaries and different histological grades of ovarian tumours. Normal ovaries, benign, borderline, grades 1, 2 and 3 ovarian tumours of serous, muciuous, endometrioid, clear cell and mixed subtypes were analysed by immunohistochemistry for PPARβ and PDK1 expression. All normal ovarian tissues, benign, borderline and grade 1 tumours showed PPARβ staining localised in the epithelium and stroma. Staining was predominantly nuclear, but some degree of cytoplasmic staining was also evident. Approximately 20% of grades 2 and 3 tumours lacked PPARβ staining, whereas the rest displayed some degree of nuclear and cytoplasmic staining of the scattered epithelium and stroma. The extent of epithelial and stromal PPARβ staining was significantly different among the normal and the histological grades of tumours (χ2=59.25, d.f.=25, P<0.001; χ2=64.48, d.f.=25, P<0.001). Significantly different staining of PPARβ was observed in the epithelium and stroma of benign and borderline tumours compared with grades 1, 2 and 3 tumours (χ2=11.28, d.f.=4, P<0.05; χ2=16.15, d.f.=4, P<0.005). In contrast, PDK1 immunostaining was absent in 9 out of 10 normal ovaries. Weak staining for PDK1 was observed in one normal ovary and 40% of benign ovarian tumours. All borderline and malignant ovarian tumours showed positive cytoplasmic and membrane PDK1 staining. Staining of PDK1 was confined to the epithelium and the blood vessels, and no apparent staining of the stroma was evident. Significantly different PDK1 staining was observed between the benign/borderline and malignant ovarian tumours (χ2=22.45, d.f.=5, P<0.001). In some borderline and high-grade tumours, staining of the reactive stroma was also evident. Our results suggest that unlike the colon, the endometrial, head and neck carcinomas, overexpression of PPARβ does not occur in ovarian tumours. However, overexpression of PDK1 was evident in borderline and low- to high-grade ovarian tumours and is consistent with its known role in tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC2361706  PMID: 18349831
ovarian carcinoma; peroxisome proliferating-activated receptor; phosphoinositide-dependent protein kinase 1; metastasis; differentiation
2.  Expression of the zinc-finger transcription factor Snail in adrenocortical carcinoma is associated with decreased survival 
British Journal of Cancer  2008;99(11):1900-1907.
In this study, we evaluate whether Snail is expressed in adrenocortical cancer (ACC) and if its expression is related to patient outcome. One of the best known functions of the zinc-finger transcription factor Snail is to induce epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Increasing evidence suggests that EMT plays a pivotal role in tumour progression and metastatic spread. Snail and E-cadherin expression were assessed by immunohistochemistry in 26 resected ACCs and real-time quantitative RT–PCR expression analysis was performed. Data were correlated with clinical outcome and in particular with overall patient survival. Seventeen of 26 (65%) ACC tumour samples expressed Snail when assessed by immunohistochemistry. Snail expression was neither detected in normal adrenocortical tissue, nor in benign adrenocortical adenomas. Expression levels were confirmed on the mRNA level by Real-Time–PCR. Survival rates were significantly decreased in Snail-positive tumours compared to Snail-negative tumours: 10 out of 16 vs one out of eight patients succumbed to disease after a median follow up of 14.5 and 28.5 months, respectively (P=0.03). Patients with Snail-expressing ACCs presented in advanced disease (11 out of 12 vs 6 out of 14, P=0.01) and tend to develop distant metastases more frequently than patients with negative staining (7 out of 11 vs two out of eight, P=0.19). In conclusion, we describe for the first time that Snail is expressed in a large subset of ACCs. Furthermore, Snail expression is associated with decreased survival, advanced disease and higher risk of developing distant metastases.
PMCID: PMC2600683  PMID: 19018264
adrenocortical carcinomas; Snail; survival
3.  Snail1 Protein in the Stroma as a New Putative Prognosis Marker for Colon Tumours 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(5):e5595.
Over-expression of Snail1 gene transcriptional repressor promotes an epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in epithelial tumour cell lines. Expression of Snail1 RNA has been associated to the pathogenesis of a number of malignancies; however, the lack of good monoclonal antibodies against this protein has precluded a definitive analysis of Snail1 protein. In this study, we aimed to determine the expression of this transcriptional factor in colorectal tumours. Using a Snail1 well-characterized monoclonal antibody developed in our laboratories we have analyzed by immunohistochemistry a cohort of 162 human colorectal tumours. Ninety tumours (56%) showed nuclear expression in the tumoral tissue and the adjacent stroma; in 34 (21%), Snail1 was detected just in the stroma, whereas in only 4 the expression of Snail1 was detected in the tumoral tissue and the stroma was negative. No correlation was found between the presence of Snail1 in the tumour and tumour stage; however, a trend (p = 0.054) was detected when the expression of this factor in the stroma was considered. Snail1 immunoreactivity in this compartment was associated with presence of distant metastasis (p = 0.006). Moreover, expression of Snail1 in the tumor stroma correlated with lower specific survival of cancer patients (p = 0.011). Interestingly, this correlation was also detected in stage I and II tumors. Therefore, our results indicate that the presence of nuclear Snail1 immunoreactive cells in the stroma may be an informative indicator of prognosis of colon tumours especially useful in those corresponding to lower stages and identify a new marker suitable to label activated stroma in colon tumours.
PMCID: PMC2680015  PMID: 19440385
4.  Down-regulation of the transcription factor snail in the placentas of patients with preeclampsia and in a rat model of preeclampsia 
Placental malfunction in preeclampsia is believed to be a consequence of aberrant differentiation of trophoblast lineages and changes in utero-placental oxygenation. The transcription factor Snail, a master regulator molecule of epithelial-mesenchymal transition in embryonic development and in cancer, is shown to be involved in trophoblast differentiation as well. Moreover, Snail can be controlled by oxidative stress and hypoxia. Therefore, we examined the expression of Snail and its downstream target, e-cadherin, in human normal term, preterm and preeclamptic placentas, and in pregnant rats that developed preeclampsia-like symptoms in the response to a 20-fold increase in sodium intake.
Western blotting analysis was used for comparative expression of Snail and e- cadherin in total protein extracts. Placental cells expressing Snail and e-cadherin were identified by immunohistochemical double-labeling technique.
The levels of Snail protein were decreased in human preeclamptic placentas by 30% (p < 0.01) compared to normal term, and in the rat model by 40% (p < 0.001) compared to control placentas. In preterm placentas, the levels of Snail expression varied, yet there was a strong trend toward statistical significance between preterm and preeclamptic placentas. In humans, e-cadherin protein level was 30% higher in preeclamptic (p < 0.05) placentas and similarly, but not significantly (p = 0.1), high in the preterm placentas compared to normal term. In the rat model of preeclampsia, e-cadherin was increased by 60% (p < 0.01). Immunohistochemical examination of human placentas demonstrated Snail-positive staining in the nuclei of the villous trophoblasts and mesenchymal cells and in the invasive trophoblasts of the decidua. In the rat placenta, the majority of Snail positive cells were spongiotrophoblasts of the junctional zone, while in the labyrinth, Snail-positive sinusoidal giant trophoblasts cells were found in some focal areas located close to the junctional zone.
We demonstrated that human preeclampsia and the salt-induced rat model of preeclampsia are associated with the reduced levels of Snail protein in placenta. Down-regulation of the transcription factor Snail in placental progenitor cell lineages, either by intrinsic defects and/or by extrinsic and maternal factors, may affect normal placenta development and function and thus contribute to the pathology of preeclampsia.
PMCID: PMC3298516  PMID: 22360878
Preeclampsia; Placenta; Snail; Trophoblast; E-cadherin
5.  Overexpression of Snail is associated with lymph node metastasis and poor prognosis in patients with gastric cancer 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:521.
Epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) plays a significant role in tumor progression and invasion. Snail is a known regulator of EMT in various malignant tumors. This study investigated the role of Snail in gastric cancer.
We examined the effects of silenced or overexpressed Snail using lenti-viral constructs in gastric cancer cells. Immunohistochemical analysis of tissue microarrays from 314 patients with gastric adenocarcinoma (GC) was used to determine Snail’s clinicopathological and prognostic significance. Differential gene expression in 45 GC specimens with Snail overexpression was investigated using cDNA microarray analysis.
Silencing of Snail by shRNA decreased invasion and migration in GC cell lines. Conversely, Snail overexpression increased invasion and migration of gastric cancer cells, in line with increased VEGF and MMP11. Snail overexpression (≥75% positive nuclear staining) was also significantly associated with tumor progression (P < 0.001), lymph node metastases (P = 0.002), lymphovascular invasion (P = 0.002), and perineural invasion (P = 0.002) in the 314 GC patients, and with shorter survival (P = 0.023). cDNA microarray analysis revealed 213 differentially expressed genes in GC tissues with Snail overexpression, including genes related to metastasis and invasion.
Snail significantly affects invasiveness/migratory ability of GCs, and may also be used as a predictive biomarker for prognosis or aggressiveness of GCs.
PMCID: PMC3552976  PMID: 23151184
Stomach; Adenocarcinoma; Snail; Lymph node metastasis; Survival
6.  Hypoxia, Snail and incomplete epithelial–mesenchymal transition in breast cancer 
British Journal of Cancer  2009;101(10):1769-1781.
Hypoxia is an element of the tumour microenvironment that impacts upon numerous cellular factors linked to clinical aggressiveness in cancer. One such factor, Snail, a master regulator of the epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT), has been implicated in key tumour biological processes such as invasion and metastasis. In this study we set out to investigate regulation of EMT in hypoxia, and the importance of Snail in cell migration and clinical outcome in breast cancer.
Four breast cancer cell lines were exposed to 0.1% oxygen and expression of EMT markers was monitored. The migratory ability was analysed following Snail overexpression and silencing. Snail expression was assessed in 500 tumour samples from premenopausal breast cancer patients, randomised to either 2 years of tamoxifen or no adjuvant treatment.
Exposure to 0.1% oxygen resulted in elevated levels of Snail protein, along with changes in vimentin and E-cadherin expression, and in addition increased migration of MDA-MB-468 cells. Overexpression of Snail increased the motility of MCF-7, T-47D and MDA-MB-231 cells, whereas silencing of the protein resulted in decreased migratory propensity of MCF-7, MDA-MB-468 and MDA-MB-231 cells. Moreover, nuclear Snail expression was associated with tumours of higher grade and proliferation rate, but not with disease recurrence. Interestingly, Snail negativity was associated with impaired tamoxifen response (P=0.048).
Our results demonstrate that hypoxia induces Snail expression but generally not a migratory phenotype, suggesting that hypoxic cells are only partially pushed towards EMT. Furthermore, our study supports the link between Snail and clinically relevant features and treatment response.
PMCID: PMC2778529  PMID: 19844232
hypoxia; EMT; Snail; breast cancer; tamoxifen
7.  Analysis of Snail-1, E-Cadherin and Claudin-1 Expression in Colorectal Adenomas and Carcinomas 
We report the expression of Snail-1, E-cadherin and claudin-1 by indirect immunohistochemistry in colonic neoplasia. Snail-1 is a zinc finger transcription factor expressed in cells that already have undergone almost complete epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and have already evaded from the tumor. The main mechanism by which Snail induces EMT is downregulation of E-cadherin, of which expression was shown to be frequently downregulated in many different types of tumors, where it accompanies the invasiveness and metastatic behavior of malignant cells. Moreover, Snail-1 may downregulate the expression of claudin-1, a cell-cell adhesion protein which plays a likely role in progression and dissemination during tumorigenesis. Snail-1 was expressed in both carcinoma and adenoma cells with histologically normal epithelium in the mucosa, adjacent to the tumors, without significant differences, and predominant strong intensity of staining. Statistically significant differences were revealed between normal and tumorous epithelium (p = 0.003) at the subcellular level, where the shift of the protein to the cytoplasm with combined cytoplasmic/nuclear or pure cytoplasmic expression was observed. E-cadherin expression was present in 100% of cases of both adenocarcinomas and adenomas, with prevailing strong membranous immunoreactivity and no differences between protein expression in tumors and normal mucosa. Predominating strong positivity of claudin-1 was detected in tumor cells of adenocarcinomas and adenomas. Marked differences were seen in protein localization, where membranous staining, typical for nontumorous epithelium, changed to combined membranous/cytoplasmic expression in adenocarcinomas (p = 0.0001) and adenomas (0.0002), in which cytoplasmic shift was associated with a higher degree of dysplasia. Furthermore, membranous/cytoplasmic localization was more frequent in the carcinoma group (87%) in comparison with adenomas (51%) (p = 0.0001). We conclude that dystopic subcellular localizations of Snail-1 and claudin-1 may participate in changes of cellular morphology and behavior which might be associated with altered effectory pathways of proteins and thus substantially contribute to the cancer development.
PMCID: PMC3291982  PMID: 22408413
Snail-1; E-cadherin; claudin-1; adenocarcinoma; adenoma; immunohistochemistry
8.  Staurosporine augments EGF-mediated EMT in PMC42-LA cells through actin depolymerisation, focal contact size reduction and Snail1 induction – A model for cross-modulation 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:235.
A feature of epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) relevant to tumour dissemination is the reorganization of actin cytoskeleton/focal contacts, influencing cellular ECM adherence and motility. This is coupled with the transcriptional repression of E-cadherin, often mediated by Snail1, Snail2 and Zeb1/δEF1. These genes, overexpressed in breast carcinomas, are known targets of growth factor-initiated pathways, however it is less clear how alterations in ECM attachment cross-modulate to regulate these pathways. EGF induces EMT in the breast cancer cell line PMC42-LA and the kinase inhibitor staurosporine (ST) induces EMT in embryonic neural epithelial cells, with F-actin de-bundling and disruption of cell-cell adhesion, via inhibition of aPKC.
PMC42-LA cells were treated for 72 h with 10 ng/ml EGF, 40 nM ST, or both, and assessed for expression of E-cadherin repressor genes (Snail1, Snail2, Zeb1/δEF1) and EMT-related genes by QRT-PCR, multiplex tandem PCR (MT-PCR) and immunofluorescence +/- cycloheximide. Actin and focal contacts (paxillin) were visualized by confocal microscopy. A public database of human breast cancers was assessed for expression of Snail1 and Snail2 in relation to outcome.
When PMC42-LA were treated with EGF, Snail2 was the principal E-cadherin repressor induced. With ST or ST+EGF this shifted to Snail1, with more extreme EMT and Zeb1/δEF1 induction seen with ST+EGF. ST reduced stress fibres and focal contact size rapidly and independently of gene transcription. Gene expression analysis by MT-PCR indicated that ST repressed many genes which were induced by EGF (EGFR, CAV1, CTGF, CYR61, CD44, S100A4) and induced genes which alter the actin cytoskeleton (NLF1, NLF2, EPHB4). Examination of the public database of breast cancers revealed tumours exhibiting higher Snail1 expression have an increased risk of disease-recurrence. This was not seen for Snail2, and Zeb1/δEF1 showed a reverse correlation with lower expression values being predictive of increased risk.
ST in combination with EGF directed a greater EMT via actin depolymerisation and focal contact size reduction, resulting in a loosening of cell-ECM attachment along with Snail1-Zeb1/δEF1 induction. This appeared fundamentally different to the EGF-induced EMT, highlighting the multiple pathways which can regulate EMT. Our findings add support for a functional role for Snail1 in invasive breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC2717979  PMID: 19604397
9.  The EMT (epithelial-mesenchymal-transition)-related protein expression indicates the metastatic status and prognosis in patients with ovarian cancer 
The epithelial-mesenchymal-transition (EMT) is an important step in the invasion and metastasis of cancer. A critical molecular feature of this process is the downregulation of the E-cadherin expression, which is primarily controlled by Snail-related zinc-finger transcription factors. The aim of this study was to evaluate the prognostic impact of the expression of EMT-related proteins (E-cadherin and Snail) in patients with ovarian cancer.
An immunohistochemical analysis was conducted using tissue microarray samples of 174 primary tumors and 34 metastases of ovarian carcinoma, and the relationships between the protein expression, clinicopathological features and outcomes were investigated.
A reduced E-cadherin expression was observed in 36.8% of the primary tumors and 30.4%, 35.7%, 37.7% and 52.7% of the stage I, II, III and IV tumors, respectively. The nuclear expression of Snail was positive in 33.9% of the primary tumors. The rate of an EMT-positive status, as represented by both a reduced E-cadherin expression and a nuclear expression of Snail, was significantly higher in the patients with peritoneal dissemination than in those without (p < 0.05). The EMT status was significantly associated with both the progression-free survival and overall survival (p <0.01). A multivariate analysis showed an EMT-positive status to be a significant predictor of both the progression-free survival (p < 0.05) and overall survival (P < 0.01).
These data indicate that the EMT status is significantly associated with peritoneal metastasis and both the progression-free survival and overall survival in patients with ovarian cancer. Therefore, clarifying and controlling EMT signaling is a promising approach to molecular targeted therapy for ovarian cancer.
PMCID: PMC4127950  PMID: 25296567
Epithelial-mesenchymal-transition; EMT; Snail; E-cadherin; Ovarian cancer
10.  Nuclear Snail1 and nuclear ZEB1 protein expression in invasive and intraductal human breast carcinomas 
Human Pathology  2011;42(8):1125-1131.
Snail1 and ZEB1 are transcriptional repressors that drive tumor initiation and metastasis in animal models. Snail1 and ZEB1 are frequently coexpressed in tumor cell lines, suggesting that these factors may cooperate to promote tumor progression. However, coexpression of these transcriptional repressors in primary human cancer specimens has not been investigated. Previous studies assessed expression in primary breast cancers of Snail1 messenger RNA, which does not reflect Snail1 activity because Snail1 is subject to posttranslational modifications that inhibit its nuclear localization/activity. In the current study, using breast tumor cell lines of known Snail1 and ZEB1 expression status, we developed immunohistochemistry protocols for detecting nuclear Snail1 and nuclear ZEB1 proteins. Using these protocols, we assessed nuclear Snail1 and nuclear ZEB1 expressions in primary human breast cancers of varying subtypes (n = 78). Nuclear Snail1 and estrogen receptor α expression were inversely associated in primary breast cancers, and nuclear Snail1 was expressed in approximately 80% of triple-negative breast cancers (lacking estrogen receptor α, progesterone receptor, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 overexpression). In contrast, nuclear ZEB1 was expressed at a significantly lower frequency in these breast cancers. Notably, nuclear Snail1 protein was detected in 45% of ductal carcinoma in situ specimens (n = 29), raising the important possibility that nuclear Snail1 expression in early stage breast lesions may predict future development of invasive breast cancer. Collectively, our studies demonstrate frequent expression of nuclear Snail1, but not nuclear ZEB1, in invasive, triple-negative breast cancers as well as in intraductal carcinomas.
PMCID: PMC3315281  PMID: 21315410
Snail1; ZEB1; Breast cancer; Estrogen receptor; Ductal carcinoma in situ
11.  Expression of e-cadherin, n-cadherin and snail and their correlation with clinicopathological variants: an immunohistochemical study of 132 invasive ductal breast carcinomas in Egypt 
Clinics  2011;66(10):1765-1771.
To evaluate the expression of the cell adhesion molecules E-cadherin and N-cadherin and the transcription factor Snail in invasive ductal breast carcinomas and to determine their relationships with clinicopathological features.
Immunohistochemistry was used to examine E-cadherin, N-cadherin, and Snail protein expression in 132 invasive breast carcinomas.
The expression of E-cadherin was decreased (negative or weak) in 37.1% of invasive carcinomas, while N-cadherin and Snail overexpression were detected in 51.9% and 40.9% of carcinomas, respectively. Low E-cadherin expression was significantly correlated with poorly differentiated carcinoma (53.1%), positive node status (80.9%), poor Nottingham Prognostic Index (64.7%), and the presence of estrogen and progesterone receptors. Overexpression of N-cadherin and Snail were also significantly correlated with poorly differentiated carcinoma, positive node status, and poor Nottingham Prognostic Index but were correlated with the absence of hormone receptors. Loss of E-cadherin immunoexpression was strongly associated with the presence of membranous N-cadherin (87.8%) and nuclear Snail (69.4%).
Loss of E-cadherin and overexpression of N-cadherin and Snail in breast carcinomas may play a central role in the development of invasive ductal breast carcinoma. These biomarkers may provide a valuable reference for the study of invasive ductal carcinoma progression and to characterize the biological behavior of the tumor. In the future, increased N-cadherin and decreased E-cadherin expression may be used as indicators of the progression and prognosis of invasive ductal carcinoma.
PMCID: PMC3180143  PMID: 22012049
E-cadherin; Immunohistochemistry; Invasive ductal carcinoma; N-cadherin; Snail
12.  Inverse correlation between E-cadherin and Snail expression in hepatocellular carcinoma cell lines in vitro and in vivo 
British Journal of Cancer  2002;86(1):98-101.
Hepatocellular carcinoma is a well-known malignancy in the world. However, the molecular mechanism of carcinogenesis and tumour progression remains unclear. Recently, reduced E-cadherin expression due to transcriptional suppressor Snail was proven in a panel of epithelial and dedifferentiated cells derived from carcinomas of various etiologies. In the present study, we examined Snail and E-cadherin mRNA/protein expression in five hepatocellular carcinoma cell lines with variable phenotypes (HuL-1, Hep-G2, Changliver, HLE, and HLF). The results demonstrated that the presence of Snail mRNA in HuL-1, Changliver, HLE and HLF cells detected by RT–PCR, which was further proven by in situ hybridization in tumours induced by HuL-1, Changliver, and HLF cells where Snail mRNA signals expressed in each of the sections. By contrast, E-cadherin mRNA and protein expression were only detected in Hep-G2 cells by RT–PCR and Western blot, respectively. These results were also consistent with the data obtained from in vivo immunohistochemical staining where membranous expression of endogenous E-cadherin protein was revealed only in tumour sections induced by Hep-G2 cells. Here we are the first to report that there is an inverse correlation between Snail and E-cadherin expression in HCC cells as well.
British Journal of Cancer (2002) 86, 98–101. DOI: 10.1038/sj/bjc/6600017
© 2002 The Cancer Research Campaign
PMCID: PMC2746537  PMID: 11857019
hepatocellular carcinoma; cell line; Snail; E-cadherin
13.  Endothelin‐1 expression correlates with atypical histological features in mammary phyllodes tumours 
Journal of Clinical Pathology  2006;60(9):1051-1056.
Background and Aims
Endothelin‐1 expression is increased in infiltrating duct carcinoma and is associated with larger tumour size, higher histological grade and lymphovascular permeation. This has not been evaluated in phyllodes tumours, which are uncommon fibroepithelial lesions with potential for local recurrences or distant metastasis. While the grading of phyllodes tumours depends on a combination of histological parameters, prediction of their behaviour remains difficult.
A large series of 461 phyllodes tumours (291 benign, 115 borderline malignant and 55 frankly malignant) were evaluated for endothelin‐1 expression in both the epithelial cells and stromal cells by immunohistochemistry; results were correlated with the tumour grade.
For benign phyllodes tumours, the epithelial staining of endothelin was negative, weak, moderate and strong in 6%, 26%, 15% and 53% of cases respectively; results were 4%, 18%, 19% and 59% respectively for borderline and 6%, 18%, 6% and 70% respectively for frankly malignant tumours. For the stromal staining, the negative, weak, moderate and strong staining was 32%, 19%, 18% and 31% respectively for benign phyllodes, 24%, 13%, 10% and 53% respectively for borderline and 8%, 16%, 17% and 59% respectively for frankly malignant tumours. There was correlation between epithelial and stromal staining, and the stromal staining correlated with histological features of stromal cellularity, stromal cell nuclear pleomorphism, margin status and stromal overgrowth.
These observations suggest a close relationship between the epithelial and stromal elements in phyllodes tumours; endothelin may play a significant role in the malignant progression of phyllodes tumours.
PMCID: PMC1972415  PMID: 17158636
breast; phyllodes tumour; endothelin
14.  The Use of Automated Quantitative Analysis to Evaluate Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition Associated Proteins in Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31557.
Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) has recently been implicated in the initiation and progression of renal cell carcinoma (RCC). Some mRNA gene expression studies have suggested a link between the EMT phenotype and poorer clinical outcome from RCC. This study evaluated expression of EMT-associated proteins in RCC using in situ automated quantitative analysis immunofluorescence (AQUA) and compared expression levels with clinical outcome.
Methods/Principal Findings
Unsupervised hierarchical cluster analysis of pre-existing RCC gene expression array data (GSE16449) from 36 patients revealed the presence of an EMT transcriptional signature in RCC [E-cadherin high/SLUG low/SNAIL low]. As automated immunofluorescence technology is dependent on accurate definition of the tumour cells in which measurements take place is critical, extensive optimisation was carried out resulting in a novel pan-cadherin based tumour mask that distinguishes renal cancer cells from stromal components. 61 patients with ccRCC and clinical follow-up were subsequently assessed for expression of EMT-associated proteins (WT1, SNAIL, SLUG, E-cadherin and phospho-β-catenin) on tissue microarrays. Using Kaplan-Meier analysis both SLUG (p = 0.029) and SNAIL (p = 0.024) (log rank Mantel-Cox) were significantly associated with prolonged progression free survival (PFS). Using Cox regression univariate and multivariate analysis none of the biomarkers were significantly correlated with outcome. 14 of the 61 patients expressed the gene expression analysis predicted EMT-protein signature [E-cadherin high/SLUG low/SNAIL low], which was not found to be associated to PFS when measured at the protein level. A combination of high expression of SNAIL and low stage was able to stratify patients with greater significance (p = 0.001) then either variable alone (high SNAIL p = 0.024, low stage p = 0.029).
AQUA has been shown to have the potential to identify EMT related protein targets in RCC allowing for stratification of patients into high and low risk groups, as well the ability to assess the association of reputed EMT signatures to progression of the disease.
PMCID: PMC3283650  PMID: 22363672
15.  The E-cadherin repressor Snail is associated with lower overall survival of ovarian cancer patients 
British Journal of Cancer  2007;98(2):489-495.
Epithelial ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death among female genital malignancies. Reduced expression of the cell adhesion molecule E-cadherin was previously shown to be associated with adverse prognostic features. The role of the E-cadherin repressor Snail in ovarian cancer progression remains to be elucidated. We analysed formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded specimens of 48 primary ovarian tumours and corresponding metastases for expression of E-cadherin and Snail by immunohistochemistry. We found a significant correlation between E-cadherin expression in primary cancers and their corresponding metastases (P<0.001). This correlation was found for Snail expression as well (P<0.001). There was a significant (P=0.008) association of reduced E-cadherin expression in primary ovarian cancer with shorter overall survival. Similarly, Snail expression in corresponding metastases (P=0.047) was associated with reduced overall survival of the patients. Additionally, the group of patients showing reduced E-cadherin and increased Snail immunoreactivity in primary tumours and corresponding metastases, respectively, had a significantly higher risk of death (P=0.002 and 0.022, respectively) when compared to the patient group with the reference expression profile E-cadherin positive and Snail negative. Taken together, the results of our study show that the E-cadherin repressor Snail is associated with lower overall survival of ovarian cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC2361433  PMID: 18026186
Snail; E-cadherin; epithelial–mesenchymal transition; ovarian cancer; overall survival
16.  Expression of Snail transcription factor in prostatic adenocarcinoma in Egypt: correlation with Maspin protein expression and clinicopathologic variables 
Background: Snail transcription factor and Maspin tumor suppressor serpin are involved in the regulation of progression, invasion and metastasis of many human malignancies. However, there is very limited data in the literature about their role in prostatic adenocarcinoma. The present study was designed to investigate Snail and Maspin expression, their interrelationship and their relationship to different clinicopathologic variables in clinically detectable prostatic adenocarcinoma. Material and methods: Tissue sections from 110 resected prostatic lesions distributed as 80 cases of prostatic adenocarcinoma and 30 cases of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) were evaluated for Snail and Maspin proteins expression by immunohistochemistry. Results: Snail protein expression was detected in 53.8% of prostatic adenocarcinomas versus none of BPH cases (p = < 0.001). A significant positive correlation of Snail expression to cancer grade (p = 0.015), lymph node metastasis (p = 0.026) and pTNM stage (p = 0.036). Maspin expression was detected in 36.6% of prostatic adenocarcinomas versus 93.3% of BPH cases (p = < 0.001). A significant negative correlation of Maspin expression to cancer grade (p = 0.007) and lymphovascular invasion (p = 0.017). Also detected was a significant negative relationship between Snail and Maspin expression in cancer cases under investigation (p = 0.002). Conclusion: Snail immunohistochemical expression can be promising as a potential prognostic biomarker in prostatic adenocarcinoma since it was significantly associated with clinicopathologic variables of progressive disease. A potential role for Snail in regulating Maspin expression is suggested based on the finding of negative association between Snail and Maspin expression in prostatic adenocarcinoma.
PMCID: PMC3726971  PMID: 23923074
Benign prostatic hyperplasia; immunohistochemistry; Maspin; prostatic adenocarcinoma; Snail; clinicopathologic variables
17.  Prognostic impact of EMT (epithelial-mesenchymal-transition)-related protein expression in endometrial cancer 
Cancer Biology & Therapy  2013;14(1):13-19.
Objectives: The epithelial-mesenchymal-transition (EMT) is an important step in the invasion and metastasis of cancer. A critical molecular feature of this process is the downregulation of E-cadherin expression, which is mainly controlled by Snail-related zinc-finger transcription factors (Snail and Slug). The aim of this study was to evaluate the prognostic impact of EMT-related protein (E-cadherin, Snail and Slug) expression in endometrial cancer.
Methods: An immunohistochemical analysis was conducted using tissue microarray samples of 354 primary tumors and 30 metastases of endometrial carcinomas, and the relationship between protein expression, clinicopathological features and outcomes were investigated.
Results: Reduced E-cadherin was seen in 39.8% of primary tumors. Reduced E-cadherin was seen in 19.5%, 40.8% and 72.7% of G1, G2 and G3 endometrioid adenocarcinomas, respectively. The nuclear expression of Snail and Slug were positive in 16.9% and 3.7% of primary tumors, respectively. EMT status, which was represented by both reduced E-cadherin and nuclear expression of Snail, was significantly associated with histological type, FIGO stage, myometrial invasion, positive peritoneal cytology and patient survival (p < 0.01). There was no difference in the rates of EMT status between the primary tumors and metastases. A multivariate analysis showed that EMT-positive status was a significant predictor for both the progression-free survival and overall survival (p < 0.01).
Conclusions: These data indicate that EMT status has a prognostic impact in endometrial cancer. Therefore, the clarification and control of EMT signaling is a promising molecular targeting therapy in endometrial cancer.
PMCID: PMC3566047  PMID: 23114646
epithelial-mesenchymal-transition; EMT; Snail; Slug; E-cadherin; endometrial cancer
18.  Neuronal transcription factor Brn-3a(l) is over expressed in high-grade ovarian carcinomas and tumor cells from ascites of patients with advanced-stage ovarian cancer 
In view of the recent association of Brn-3 transcription factors with neuroblastomas, cervical, breast, and prostate cancers we examined the expression of Brn-3a(l) in normal ovaries and in different histological grades of ovarian tumors. The expression of Brn-3a(l) was also evaluated in normal ovarian and cancer cell lines and tumor cells isolated from the ascites of advanced-stage ovarian cancer patients.
Normal ovaries, benign, borderline, grades 1, 2 and 3 ovarian tumors were analyzed by immunohistochemistry for Brn-3a(l) expression. A total of 46 ovarian specimens were included in the study. Immunofluorescence was used to investigate the expression of Brn-3a in normal ovarian and cancer cell lines. Brn-3a(l) expression was also evaluated by Western blot in tumor cells isolated from ascites of advanced-stage ovarian cancer patients and also in ovarian cancer cell lines.
Nearly 12% of normal and benign ovarian tissues and 57% of borderline ovarian tumors were positive for epithelial Brn-3a(l) expression. Stromal staining was higher and it constituted 40% of normal non-cancerous ovaries compared to 50 and 86% in benign and borderline tumors. On the other hand, 85-100% of grades 1, 2 & 3 ovarian tumors demonstrated nuclear and cytoplasmic Brn-3a(l) staining in the epithelium. Stromal staining in grades1, 2 and 3 tumors constituted 71-88% of total staining. Overall, immunoreactive Brn-3a was present in all grades of ovarian tumors. The extent of epithelial and stromal Brn-3a staining was significantly different between the normal and histological grades of tumors (epithelial-χ2 = 41.01, df = 20, P = 0.004, stromal-χ2 = 24.66. df = 15, P = 0.05). The extent of epithelial staining was significantly higher in grades 1 and 2 ovarian tumors compared to normal ovaries and benign ovarian tumors (p < 0.05). In parallel, stromal staining was significantly higher in grade 3 tumors compared to normal ovaries (p < 0.05). In addition, cytoplasmic and nuclear Brn-3a expression was evident in ovarian cancer cell lines while no such expression was observed in SV40 antigen immortalized normal ovarian cell lines.
These data suggest that like other cancers, Brn-3a(l) expression is enhanced in ovarian tumors and its expression is consistent with its known role in inhibiting apoptosis and enhancing tumorigenesis. Specific targeting of Brn-3a may provide a useful strategy for regulating multiple tumor related genes involved with ovarian carcinomas.
PMCID: PMC2920243  PMID: 20670407
19.  Snail promotes CXCR2 ligand dependent tumor progression in NSCLC 
As a transcriptional repressor of E-cadherin, Snail has predominantly been associated with epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), invasion, and metastasis. However, other important Snail-dependent malignant phenotypes have not been fully explored. Here, we investigate the contributions of Snail to the progression of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Experimental Design
Immunohistochemistry was performed to quantify and localize Snail in human lung cancer tissues, and tissue microarray analysis (TMA) was utilized to correlate these findings with survival. NSCLC cell lines gene-modified to stably over-express Snail were evaluated in vivo in two severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) murine tumor models. Differential gene expression between Snail over-expressing and control cell lines was evaluated using gene expression microarray analysis.
Snail is up-regulated in human NSCLC tissue, and high levels of Snail expression correlate with decreased survival (p<0.026). In a heterotopic model, mice bearing Snail over-expressing tumors developed increased primary tumor burden (p=0.008). In an orthotopic model, mice bearing Snail over-expressing tumors also demonstrated a trend toward increased metastases. In addition, Snail over-expression led to increased angiogenesis in primary tumors as measured by MECA-32 (p<0.05) positivity and CXCL8 (p=0.002) and CXCL5 (p=0.0003) concentrations in tumor homogenates. Demonstrating the importance of these pro-angiogenic chemokines, the Snail-mediated increase in tumor burden was abrogated with CXCR2 blockade. Gene expression analysis also revealed Snail-associated differential gene expression with the potential to affect angiogenesis and diverse aspects of lung cancer progression.
Snail up-regulation plays a role in human NSCLC by promoting tumor progression mediated by CXCR2 ligands.
PMCID: PMC2783274  PMID: 19887480
Snail; lung cancer; angiogenesis; CXCL8; CXCL5
20.  A novel molecular pathway for Snail-dependent, SPARC-mediated invasion in non-small cell lung cancer pathogenesis 
Definition of the molecular pathogenesis of lung cancer allows investigators an enhanced understanding of the natural history of the disease, thus fostering development of new prevention strategies. In addition to regulating epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), the transcription factor Snail exerts global effects on gene expression. Our recent studies reveal that Snail is upregulated in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), is associated with poor prognosis, and promotes tumor progression in vivo. Herein, we demonstrate that overexpression of Snail leads to upregulation of Secreted Protein, Acidic and Rich in Cysteine (SPARC) in models of premalignancy and established disease, as well as in lung carcinoma tissues in situ. Snail overexpression leads to increased SPARC-dependent invasion in vitro, indicating that SPARC may play a role in lung cancer progression. Bioinformatic analysis implicates TGF-β, ERK1/2, and miR-29b as potential intermediaries in Snail-mediated upregulation of SPARC. Both the TGF-β1 ligand and TGF-βR2 are upregulated following Snail overexpression. Treatment of human bronchial epithelial cell (HBEC) lines with TGF-β1 and inhibition of TGF-β1 mRNA expression modulated SPARC expression. Inhibition of MEK phosphorylation downregulated SPARC. MiR-29b is downregulated in Snail overexpressing cell lines, while overexpression of miR-29b inhibited SPARC expression. In addition, miR-29b was upregulated following ERK inhibition, suggesting a Snail-dependent pathway by which Snail activation of TGF-β and ERK signaling results in downregulation of miR-29b and subsequent upregulation of SPARC. Our discovery of pathways responsible for Snail-induced SPARC expression contributes to the definition of NSCLC pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3919444  PMID: 24253315
NSCLC; Snail; SPARC; invasion; parallel progression
21.  The FGFR1 inhibitor PD173074 induces mesenchymal–epithelial transition through the transcription factor AP-1 
British Journal of Cancer  2013;109(8):2248-2258.
Epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a crucial process in cancer progression that provides cancer cells with the ability to escape from the primary focus, invade stromal tissues and migrate to distant regions. Cell lines that lack E-cadherin show increased tumorigenesis and metastasis, and the expression levels of E-cadherin and Snail correlate inversely with the prognosis of patients suffering from breast cancer or oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). Moreover, recent studies have shown that most EMT cases are regulated by soluble growth factors or cytokines. Among these factors, fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) execute diverse functions by binding to and activating members of the FGF receptor (FGFR) family, including FGFR1–4. Fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 is an oncoprotein that is involved in tumorigenesis, and PD173074 is known to be a selective inhibitor of FGFR1. However, the roles of FGFR1 and FGFR1 inhibitors have not yet been examined in detail.
Here, we investigated the expression of FGFR1 in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and the role of the FGFR1 inhibitor PD173074 in carcinogenesis and the EMT process.
Fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 was highly expressed in 54% of HNSCC cases and was significantly correlated with malignant behaviours. Nuclear FGFR1 expression was also observed and correlated well with histological differentiation, the pattern of invasion and abundant nuclear polymorphism. Fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 was also overexpressed in EMT cell lines compared with non-EMT cell lines. Furthermore, treatment of HOC313 cells with PD173074 suppressed cellular proliferation and invasion and reduced ERK1/2 and p38 activation. These cells also demonstrated morphological changes, transforming from spindle- to cobble stone-like in shape. In addition, the expression levels of certain matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), whose genes contain activator protein-1 (AP-1) promoter sites, as well as Snail1 and Snail2 were reduced following PD173074 treatment.
Taken together, these data suggest that PD173074 inhibits the MAPK pathway, which regulates the activity of AP-1 and induces MET. Furthermore, this induction of MET likely suppresses cancer cell growth and invasion.
PMCID: PMC3798957  PMID: 24045665
FGFR1; E-cadherin; Snail; AP-1; EMT; MET
22.  Alcohol Stimulates Activation of Snail, Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Signaling, and Biomarkers of Epithelial-mesenchymal Transition in Colon and Breast Cancer Cells 
Alcohol consumption is associated with the risk of progressive cancers including colon and breast cancer. The mechanisms for the alcohol-induced aggressive behavior of these epithelial cancer cells have not been fully identified. Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a developmental program recently shown to play a role in cancer progression and metastases. We hypothesized that alcohol might promote cancer progression by inducing EMT in cancer cells and tested this hypothesis by assessing alcohol-stimulated changes in phenotypic markers of EMT as well as the EMT transcription factor Snail and its related cell signaling.
Colon and breast cancer cell lines and a normal intestinal epithelial cell line were tested as well as colonic mucosal biopsy samples from alcoholic subjects. Cells were treated with alcohol and assessed for EMT-related changes using immunofluorescent microscopy, western blotting, reporter assays, RT-PCR, and knockdown of Snail with siRNA.
We show alcohol upregulated the signature EMT phenotypic marker vimentin as well as MMP-2, MMP-7, and MMP-9 and cell migration in colon and breast cancer cells -all characteristics of EMT. Alcohol also stimulated nuclear localization of Snail phosphorylated at Ser246, transcription from a Snail reporter plasmid, and Snail mRNA expression by RT-PCR. Snail siRNA knockdown prevented alcohol-stimulated vimentin expression. In vivo, Snail expression was significantly elevated in colonic mucosal biopsies from alcoholics. Also, we found alcohol stimulated activation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling and an EGFR inhibitor blocked alcohol-induced cell migration and Snail mRNA expression.
Collectively, our data support a novel mechanism for alcohol promoting cancer progression through stimulating the EMT program in cancer cells via an EGFR-Snail mediated pathway. This study reveals new pathways for alcohol-mediated promotion of cancer that could be targeted for therapy or prevention of alcohol-related cancers.
PMCID: PMC3689303  PMID: 19860811
Snail; epithelial-mesenchymal transition; epidermal growth factor receptor; alcohol; cancer
23.  Snail promotes an invasive phenotype in lung carcinoma 
Respiratory Research  2012;13(1):104.
Snail is a transcriptional factor which is known to influence the epitheliomesenchymal transition (EMT) by regulating adhesion proteins such as E-cadherin and claudins as well as matrix metalloproteases (MMP).
To evaluate the functional importance of snail, a transciptional factor involved in EMT in lung tumors, we investigated its expression in a large set of lung carcinomas by immunohistochemistry. Expression of snail and effects of snail knockdown was studied in cell lines.
Nuclear snail expression was seen in 21% of cases this being strongest in small cell lung carcinomas (SCLC). There was significantly greater snail expression in SCLC compared to squamous cell or adenocarcinoma. Positive snail expression was associated with poor survival in the whole material and separately in squamous cell and adenocarcinomas. In Cox regression analysis, snail expression showed an independent prognostic value in all of these groups. In several cell lines knockdown of snail reduced invasion in both matrigel assay and in the myoma tissue model for invasion. The influence of snail knockdown on claudin expression was cell type specific. Snail knockdown in these cell lines modified the expression of MMP2 and MMP9 but did not influence the activation of these MMPs to any significant degree.
The results show that snail plays an important role in the invasive characteristics of lung carcinoma influencing the survival of the patients. Snail knockdown might thus be one option for targeted molecular therapy in lung cancer. Snail knockdown influenced the expression of claudins individually in a cell-line dependent manner but did not influence MMP expressions or activations to any significant degree.
PMCID: PMC3546026  PMID: 23157169
Lung; Carcinoma; Snail; Claudin; MMP
24.  Snail controls the mesenchymal phenotype and drives erlotinib resistance in Oral epithelial and HNSCC cells 
The presence of regional metastases in HNSCC patients is a common and adverse event associated with poor prognosis. Understanding the molecular mechanisms that mediate HNSCC metastasis may enable identification of novel therapeutic targets. Our recent work on human HNSCC tissues underlies Snail’s role as a molecular prognostic marker for HNSCC. Snail positivity is significantly predictive of poorly differentiated, lymphovascular invasive, as well as regionally metastatic tumors. We recently reported the role of Snail in the inflammation-induced promotion of EMT in HNSCC. However, other important Snail-dependent malignant phenotypes have not been fully explored. Here, we investigate the capacity of Snail to drive EMT in human oral epithelial cell lines, and its ability to confer drug resistance.
Snail was overexpressed HNSCC and oral epithelial cell lines. AIG assays, wound healing assays, invasion & migration assays, spheroid modeling, and cell survival assays were performed.
The overexpression of Snail in human HNSCC and oral epithelial cell lines drives EMT. The sole transfection of Snail confers the expression of a mesenchymal molecular signature including down-regulation of the epithelial adherens, such as E-cadherin and β-catenin, and induction of mesenchymal markers, Snail overexpressing cell lines demonstrate rapid growth in Anchorage-independent growth assays; a decreased capacity to form tight spheroids; increased resistance to erlotinib; and have an increased capacity for invasion.
Snail controls the mesenchymal phenotype and drives erlotinib resistance in HNSCC cells. Snail may prove to be a useful marker in predicting EGFR inhibitor responsiveness.
PMCID: PMC4167686  PMID: 22568942
25.  Snail1 expression in colorectal cancer and its correlation with clinical and pathological parameters 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:145.
Snail1 is a transcription regulator of E-cadherin. The loss of E-cadherin seems to be a crucial step in the process of Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). EMT initiates invasion and proliferation in many tumours. Overexpression of Snail1 is known to be associated with poor outcome in several solid tumours. The aim of this study was to analyse its expression profile and prognostic significance in colorectal cancer.
Tissue microarrays (TMA) containing paraffin-embedded primary colorectal cancer (CRC) tissue samples from 251 patients were used in this study. The expression of Snail1 and E-cadherin was assessed by immunohistochemistry in different tumour compartments, corresponding lymph node metastases and normal colonic mucosa. Intensity of staining was classified according to the Remmele score (standardized scoring system) as well as the semiquantitative score established by Blechschmidt et al.
Snail1 expression was observed in 76% of the CRC. Loss of E-cadherin was noted in 87% of the CRC. Snail1 positive tumours were significantly correlated with Snail1 positive lymph node metastases (p=0.03). There was no significant correlation between loss of E-cadherin and Snail1 expression, or between N-stage or grading and Snail1 expression. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis identified no prognostic impact of Snail1 expression on overall survival.
Snail1 expression was detectable in most of the CRC but showed no significant association with E-cadherin loss, clinical pathological characteristics or overall survival. The observed loss of E-cadherin could be explained by effects of other important EMT pathways, such as the Wnt-signalling cascade.
PMCID: PMC3617032  PMID: 23522088
Snail1; E-cadherin; Colorectal carcinoma; Prognostic factor; EMT

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