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1.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005595
PMCID: PMC2680015  PMID: 19440385
2.  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.
doi:10.3390/ijms13021632
PMCID: PMC3291982  PMID: 22408413
Snail-1; E-cadherin; claudin-1; adenocarcinoma; adenoma; immunohistochemistry
3.  Overexpression of Snail is associated with lymph node metastasis and poor prognosis in patients with gastric cancer 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:521.
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
Snail significantly affects invasiveness/migratory ability of GCs, and may also be used as a predictive biomarker for prognosis or aggressiveness of GCs.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-521
PMCID: PMC3552976  PMID: 23151184
Stomach; Adenocarcinoma; Snail; Lymph node metastasis; Survival
4.  14-3-3 binding sites in the Snail protein are essential for Snail-mediated transcriptional repression and epithelial-mesenchymal differentiation 
Cancer research  2010;70(11):4385-4393.
The Snail transcription factor is a repressor and a master regulator of epithelial-mesenchymal transition events (EMT) in normal embryonic development and during tumor metastases. Snail directly regulates genes affecting cell adhesion, motility and polarity. Invasive tumor cells express high levels of Snail and it is a marker for aggressive disease and poor prognosis. Transcriptional repression and EMT induction by Snail requires binding to its obligate corepressor, the LIM protein Ajuba. It is unclear how this complex is assembled and maintained on Snail target genes. Here we define functional 14-3-3 binding motifs in Snail and Ajuba which selectively bind 14-3-3 protein isoforms. In Snail, a NH2-terminal motif in the repression domain cooperates with a COOH-terminal, high affinity motif for binding to 14-3-3 proteins. Coordinate mutation of both motifs abolishes 14-3-3 binding and inhibits Snail-mediated gene repression and EMT differentiation. Snail, 14-3-3 proteins, and Ajuba form a ternary complex which is readily detected via ChIP at the endogenous E-cadherin promoter. Collectively, these data show that 14-3-3 proteins are new components of the Snail transcriptional repression machinery and mediate its important biological functions.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-0070
PMCID: PMC2894621  PMID: 20501852
Snail; 14-3-3; Ajuba; epithelial-mesenchymal transition; transcriptional repression
5.  Hypoxia, Snail and incomplete epithelial–mesenchymal transition in breast cancer 
British Journal of Cancer  2009;101(10):1769-1781.
Background:
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.
Methods:
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.
Results:
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).
Conclusions:
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.
doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6605369
PMCID: PMC2778529  PMID: 19844232
hypoxia; EMT; Snail; breast cancer; tamoxifen
6.  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.
doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6604755
PMCID: PMC2600683  PMID: 19018264
adrenocortical carcinomas; Snail; survival
7.  Phosphorylation of Serine 11 and Serine 92 as New Positive Regulators of Human Snail1 Function: Potential Involvement of Casein Kinase-2 and the cAMP-activated Kinase Protein Kinase A 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2010;21(2):244-253.
New phosphorylation sites in Snail1 have been identified with functional implications. Serines 11 and 92 participate in the control of Snail1 stability and positively regulate Snail1 repressive function and its interaction with mSin3A co-repressor. Furthermore, serines 11 and 92 are required for Snail1-mediated EMT and cell viability, respectively.
Snail1 is a major factor for epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), an important event in tumor metastasis and in other pathologies. Snail1 is tightly regulated at transcriptional and posttranscriptional levels. Control of Snail1 protein stability and nuclear export by GSK3β phosphorylation is important for Snail1 functionality. Stabilization mechanisms independent of GSK3β have also been reported, including interaction with LOXL2 or regulation of the COP9 signalosome by inflammatory signals. To get further insights into the role of Snail1 phosphorylation, we have performed an in-depth analysis of in vivo human Snail1 phosphorylation combined with mutational studies. We identify new phosphorylation sites at serines 11, 82, and 92 and confirmed previously suggested phosphorylations at serine 104 and 107. Serines 11 and 92 participate in the control of Snail1 stability and positively regulate Snail1 repressive function and its interaction with mSin3A corepressor. Furthermore, serines 11 and 92 are required for Snail1-mediated EMT and cell viability, respectively. PKA and CK2 have been characterized as the main kinases responsible for in vitro Snail1 phosphorylation at serine 11 and 92, respectively. These results highlight serines 11 and 92 as new players in Snail1 regulation and suggest the participation of CK2 and PKA in the modulation of Snail1 functionality.
doi:10.1091/mbc.E09-06-0504
PMCID: PMC2808231  PMID: 19923321
8.  Snail promotes CXCR2 ligand dependent tumor progression in NSCLC 
Purpose
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
Snail up-regulation plays a role in human NSCLC by promoting tumor progression mediated by CXCR2 ligands.
doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-09-1558
PMCID: PMC2783274  PMID: 19887480
Snail; lung cancer; angiogenesis; CXCL8; CXCL5
9.  Mesenchymal cells reactivate Snail1 expression to drive three-dimensional invasion programs 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2009;184(3):399-408.
Epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) is required for mesodermal differentiation during development. The zinc-finger transcription factor, Snail1, can trigger EMT and is sufficient to transcriptionally reprogram epithelial cells toward a mesenchymal phenotype during neoplasia and fibrosis. Whether Snail1 also regulates the behavior of terminally differentiated mesenchymal cells remains unexplored. Using a Snai1 conditional knockout model, we now identify Snail1 as a regulator of normal mesenchymal cell function. Snail1 expression in normal fibroblasts can be induced by agonists known to promote proliferation and invasion in vivo. When challenged within a tissue-like, three-dimensional extracellular matrix, Snail1-deficient fibroblasts exhibit global alterations in gene expression, which include defects in membrane type-1 matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP)-dependent invasive activity. Snail1-deficient fibroblasts explanted atop the live chick chorioallantoic membrane lack tissue-invasive potential and fail to induce angiogenesis. These findings establish key functions for the EMT regulator Snail1 after terminal differentiation of mesenchymal cells.
doi:10.1083/jcb.200810113
PMCID: PMC2646556  PMID: 19188491
10.  Increased SNAIL expression and low syndecan levels are associated with high Gleason grade in prostate cancer 
International Journal of Oncology  2014;44(3):647-654.
Prostate cancer (PC) is a leading male oncologic malignancy wideworld. During malignant transformation, normal epithelial cells undergo genetic and morphological changes known as epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Several regulatory genes and specific marker proteins are involved in PC EMT. Recently, syndecans have been associated with malignancy grade and Gleason score in PC. Considering that SNAIL is mainly a gene repressor increased in PC and that syndecan promoters have putative binding sites for this repressor, we propose that SNAIL might regulate syndecan expression during PC EMT. The aim of this study was to analyze immunochemically the expression of SNAIL, syndecans 1 and 2 and other EMT markers in a tissue microarray (TMA) of PC samples and PC cell lines. The TMAs included PC samples of different Gleason grade and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) samples, as non-malignant controls. PC3 and LNCaP cell lines were used as models of PC representing different tumorigenic capacities. Semi-quantitative immunohistochemistry was performed on TMAs and fluorescence immunocytochemistry and western blot analysis were conducted on cell cultures. Results show that SNAIL exhibits increased expression in high Gleason specimens compared to low histological grade and BPH samples. Accordingly, PC3 cells show higher SNAIL expression levels compared to LNCaP cells. Conversely, syndecan 1, similarly to E-cadherin (a known marker of EMT), shows a decreased expression in high Gleason grades samples and PC3 cells. Interestingly, syndecan 2 shows no changes associated to histological grade. It is concluded that increased SNAIL levels in advanced PC are associated with low expression of syndecan 1. The mechanism by which SNAIL regulates the expression of syndecan 1 remains to be investigated.
doi:10.3892/ijo.2014.2254
PMCID: PMC3928469  PMID: 24424718
prostate cancer; SNAIL; syndecans; epithelial-mesenchymal transition
11.  Slug is a direct Notch target required for initiation of cardiac cushion cellularization 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2008;182(2):315-325.
Snail family proteins are key regulators of epithelial-mesenchymal transition, but their role in endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is less well studied. We show that Slug, a Snail family member, is expressed by a subset of endothelial cells as well as mesenchymal cells of the atrioventricular canal and outflow tract during cardiac cushion morphogenesis. Slug deficiency results in impaired cellularization of the cardiac cushion at embryonic day (E)–9.5 but is compensated by increased Snail expression at E10.5, which restores cardiac cushion EMT. We further demonstrate that Slug, but not Snail, is directly up-regulated by Notch in endothelial cells and that Slug expression is required for Notch-mediated repression of the vascular endothelial cadherin promoter and for promoting migration of transformed endothelial cells. In contrast, transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) induces Snail but not Slug. Interestingly, activation of Notch in the context of TGF-β stimulation results in synergistic up-regulation of Snail in endothelial cells. Collectively, our data suggest that combined expression of Slug and Snail is required for EMT in cardiac cushion morphogenesis.
doi:10.1083/jcb.200710067
PMCID: PMC2483533  PMID: 18663143
12.  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.
doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6604115
PMCID: PMC2361433  PMID: 18026186
Snail; E-cadherin; epithelial–mesenchymal transition; ovarian cancer; overall survival
13.  Targeted Inactivation of Snail Family EMT Regulatory Factors by a Co(III)-Ebox Conjugate 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e32318.
Snail family proteins are core EMT (epithelial-mesenchymal transition) regulatory factors that play essential roles in both development and disease processes and have been associated with metastasis in carcinomas. Snail factors are required for the formation of neural crest stem cells in most vertebrate embryos, as well as for the migratory invasive behavior of these cells. Snail factors have recently been linked to the formation of cancer stem cells, and expression of Snail proteins may be associated with tumor recurrence and resistance to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. We report that Co(III)-Ebox is a potent inhibitor of Snail- mediated transcriptional repression in breast cancer cells and in the neural crest of Xenopus. We further show that the activity of Co(III)-Ebox can be modulated by temperature, increasing the utility of this conjugate as a Snail inhibitor in model organisms. We exploit this feature to further delineate the requirements for Snail function during neural crest development, showing that in addition to the roles that Snail factors play in neural crest precursor formation and neural crest EMT/migration, inhibition of Snail function after the onset of neural crest migration leads to a loss of neural crest derived melanocytes. Co(III)-Ebox-mediated inhibition therefore provides a powerful tool for analysing the function of these core EMT factors with unparalleled temporal resolution. Moreover, the potency of Co(III)-Ebox as a Snail inhibitor in breast cancer cells suggests its potential as a therapeutic inhibitor of tumor progression and metastasis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032318
PMCID: PMC3290632  PMID: 22393397
14.  The Collagen Receptor Discoidin Domain Receptor 2 Stabilizes Snail1 Protein to Facilitate Breast Cancer Metastasis 
Nature cell biology  2013;15(6):677-687.
Increased stromal collagen deposition in human breast tumours correlates with metastases. We show that activation of the collagen I receptor DDR2 regulates Snail1 protein stability by stimulating ERK2 activity, in a Src-dependent manner. Activated ERK2 directly phosphorylates Snail1, leading to Snail1 nuclear accumulation, reduced ubiquitination, and increased protein half-life. DDR2-mediated stabilization of Snail1 promotes breast cancer cell invasion and migration in vitro, and metastasis in vivo. DDR2 expression was observed in the majority of human invasive ductal breast carcinomas studied, and was associated with nuclear Snail1 and absence of E-cadherin expression. We propose that DDR2 maintains Snail1 protein level and activity in tumor cells that have undergone EMT, thereby facilitating continued tumor cell invasion through collagen I-rich ECM by sustaining the EMT phenotype. As such, DDR2 could be an RTK target for the treatment of breast cancer metastasis.
doi:10.1038/ncb2743
PMCID: PMC3794710  PMID: 23644467
Discoidin Domain Receptor (DDR); Snail; Epithelial Mesenchymal Transition (EMT); Collagen
15.  Rac1b and reactive oxygen species mediate MMP-3-induced EMT and genomic instability 
Nature  2005;436(7047):123-127.
The tumour microenvironment can be a potent carcinogen, not only by facilitating cancer progression and activating dormant cancer cells, but also by stimulating tumour formation1. We have previously investigated stromelysin-1/matrix metalloproteinase-3 (MMP-3), a stromal enzyme upregulated in many breast tumours2, and found that MMP-3 can cause epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) and malignant transformation in cultured cells3–5, and genomically unstable mammary carcinomas in transgenic mice3. Here we explain the molecular pathways by which MMP-3 exerts these effects: exposure of mouse mammary epithelial cells to MMP-3 induces the expression of an alternatively spliced form of Rac1, which causes an increase in cellular reactive oxygen species (ROS). The ROS stimulate the expression of the transcription factor Snail and EMT, and cause oxidative damage to DNA and genomic instability. These findings identify a previously undescribed pathway in which a component of the breast tumour microenvironment alters cellular structure in culture and tissue structure in vivo, leading to malignant transformation.
doi:10.1038/nature03688
PMCID: PMC2784913  PMID: 16001073
16.  A SNAIL1-SMAD3/4 transcriptional repressor complex promotes TGF-β mediated epithelial-mesenchymal transition 
Nature cell biology  2009;11(8):943-950.
Epithelial-mesenchymal transitions (EMT) are essential for organogenesis and triggered in carcinoma progression into an invasive state1. Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) cooperates with signalling pathways, such as Ras and Wnt, to induce EMT2-5, but the molecular mechanisms are not clear. Here, we report that SMAD3 and SMAD4 interact and form a complex with SNAIL1, a transcriptional repressor and promoter of EMT6, 7. The SNAIL1-SMAD3/4 complex was targeted to the gene promoters of CAR, a tight junction protein, and E-cadherin during TGF-β-driven EMT in breast epithelial cells. SNAIL1 and SMAD3/4 acted as co-repressors of CAR, occludin, claudin-3 and E-cadherin promoters in transfected cells. Conversely, co-silencing of SNAIL1 and SMAD4 by siRNA inhibited the repression of CAR and occludin during EMT. Moreover, loss of CAR and E-cadherin correlated with nuclear co-expression of SNAIL1 and SMAD3/4 in a mouse model of breast carcinoma and at the invasive fronts of human breast cancer. We propose that activation of a SNAIL1-SMAD3/4 transcriptional complex represents a novel mechanism of gene repression during EMT.
doi:10.1038/ncb1905
PMCID: PMC3769970  PMID: 19597490
17.  Snail1 transcriptional repressor binds to its own promoter and controls its expression 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(7):2077-2084.
The product of Snail1 gene is a transcriptional repressor of E-cadherin expression and an inductor of the epithelial–mesenchymal transition in several epithelial tumour cell lines. Transcription of Snail1 is induced when epithelial cells are forced to acquire a mesenchymal phenotype. In this work we demonstrate that Snail1 protein limits its own expression: Snail1 binds to an E-box present in its promoter (at −146 with respect to the transcription start) and represses its activity. Therefore, mutation of the E-box increases Snail1 transcription in epithelial and mesenchymal cells. Evidence of binding of ectopic or endogenous Snail1 to its own promoter was obtained by chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) experiments. Studies performed expressing different forms of Snail1 under the control of its own promoter demonstrate that disruption of the regulatory loop increases the cellular levels of Snail protein. These results indicate that expression of Snail1 gene can be regulated by its product and evidence the existence of a fine-tuning feed-back mechanism of regulation of Snail1 transcription.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkl141
PMCID: PMC1440880  PMID: 16617148
18.  The LIM Protein AJUBA Recruits Protein Arginine Methyltransferase 5 To Mediate SNAIL-Dependent Transcriptional Repression▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2008;28(10):3198-3207.
The SNAIL transcription factor contains C-terminal tandem zinc finger motifs and an N-terminal SNAG repression domain. The members of the SNAIL family have recently emerged as major contributors to the processes of development and metastasis via the regulation of epithelial-mesenchymal transition events during embryonic development and tumor progression. However, the mechanisms by which SNAIL represses gene expression are largely undefined. Previously we demonstrated that the AJUBA family of LIM proteins function as corepressors for SNAIL and, as such, may serve as a platform for the assembly of chromatin-modifying factors. Here, we describe the identification of the protein arginine methyltransferase 5 (PRMT5) as an effector recruited to SNAIL through an interaction with AJUBA that functions to repress the SNAIL target gene, E-cadherin. PRMT5 binds to the non-LIM region of AJUBA and is translocated into the nucleus in a SNAIL- and AJUBA-dependent manner. The depletion of PRMT5 in p19 cells stimulates E-cadherin expression, and the SNAIL, AJUBA, and PRMT5 ternary complex can be found at the proximal promoter region of the E-cadherin gene, concomitant with increased arginine methylation of histones at the locus. Together, these data suggest that PRMT5 is an effector of SNAIL-dependent gene repression.
doi:10.1128/MCB.01435-07
PMCID: PMC2423142  PMID: 18347060
19.  Sema3E/Plexin-D1 Mediated Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition in Ovarian Endometrioid Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e19396.
Cancer cells often employ developmental cues for advantageous growth and metastasis. Here, we report that an axon guidance molecule, Sema3E, is highly expressed in human high-grade ovarian endometrioid carcinoma, but not low-grade or other ovarian epithelial tumors, and facilitates tumor progression. Unlike its known angiogenic activity, Sema3E acted through Plexin-D1 receptors to augment cell migratory ability and concomitant epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Sema3E-induced EMT in ovarian endometrioid cancer cells was dependent on nuclear localization of Snail1 through activation of phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase and ERK/MAPK. RNAi-mediated knockdown of Sema3E, Plexin-D1 or Snail1 in Sema3E-expressing tumor cells resulted in compromised cell motility, concurrent reversion of EMT and diminished nuclear localization of Snail1. By contrast, forced retention of Snail1 within the nucleus of Sema3E-negative tumor cells induced EMT and enhanced cell motility. These results show that in addition to the angiogenic effects of Sema3E on tumor vascular endothelium, an EMT strategy could be exploited by Sema3E/Plexin-D1 signaling in tumor cells to promote cellular invasion/migration.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019396
PMCID: PMC3084850  PMID: 21559368
20.  Snail transcription factor negatively regulates maspin tumor suppressor in human prostate cancer cells 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:336.
Background
Maspin, a putative tumor suppressor that is down-regulated in breast and prostate cancer, has been associated with decreased cell motility. Snail transcription factor is a zinc finger protein that is increased in breast cancer and is associated with increased tumor motility and invasion by induction of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). We investigated the molecular mechanisms by which Snail increases tumor motility and invasion utilizing prostate cancer cells.
Methods
Expression levels were analyzed by RT-PCR and western blot analyses. Cell motility and invasion assays were performed, while Snail regulation and binding to maspin promoter was analyzed by luciferase reporter and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays.
Results
Snail protein expression was higher in different prostate cancer cells lines as compared to normal prostate epithelial cells, which correlated inversely with maspin expression. Snail overexpression in 22Rv1 prostate cancer cells inhibited maspin expression and led to increased migration and invasion. Knockdown of Snail in DU145 and C4-2 cancer cells resulted in up-regulation of maspin expression, concomitant with decreased migration. Transfection of Snail into 22Rv1 or LNCaP cells inhibited maspin promoter activity, while stable knockdown of Snail in C4-2 cells increased promoter activity. ChIP analysis showed that Snail is recruited to the maspin promoter in 22Rv1 cells.
Conclusions
Overall, this is the first report showing that Snail can negatively regulate maspin expression by directly repressing maspin promoter activity, leading to increased cell migration and invasion. Therefore, therapeutic targeting of Snail may be useful to re-induce expression of maspin tumor suppressor and prevent prostate cancer tumor progression.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-336
PMCID: PMC3437215  PMID: 22857708
Snail; Maspin; Prostate cancer
21.  Snail Involves in the Transforming Growth Factor β1-Mediated Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition of Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23322.
Background
The proliferation of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells resulting from an epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) plays a key role in proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR), which leads to complex retinal detachment and the loss of vision. Genes of Snail family encode the zinc finger transcription factors that have been reported to be essential in EMT during embryonic development and cancer metastasis. However, the function of Snail in RPE cells undergoing EMT is largely unknown.
Principal Findings
Transforming growth factor beta(TGF-β)-1 resulted in EMT in human RPE cells (ARPE-19), which was characterized by the expected decrease in E-cadherin and Zona occludin-1(ZO-1) expression, and the increase in fibronectin and α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) expression, as well as the associated increase of Snail expression at both mRNA and protein levels. Furthermore, TGF-β1 treatment caused a significant change in ARPE-19 cells morphology, with transition from a typical epithelial morphology to mesenchymal spindle-shaped. More interestingly, Snail silencing significantly attenuated TGF-β1-induced EMT in ARPE-19 cells by decreasing the mesenchymal markers fibronectin and a-SMA and increasing the epithelial marker E-cadherin and ZO-1. Snail knockdown could effectively suppress ARPE-19 cell migration. Finally, Snail was activated in epiretinal membranes from PVR patients. Taken together, Snail plays very important roles in TGF-β-1-induced EMT in human RPE cells and may contribute to the development of PVR.
Significance
Snail transcription factor plays a critical role in TGF-β1-induced EMT in human RPE cells, which provides deep insight into the pathogenesis of human PVR disease. The specific inhibition of Snail may provide a new approach to treat and prevent PVR.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023322
PMCID: PMC3154444  PMID: 21853110
22.  Key signalling nodes in mammary gland development and cancer. The Snail1-Twist1 conspiracy in malignant breast cancer progression 
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, and despite significant advances in diagnosing and treating it, metastatic spread of cancer cells results in a high mortality rate. Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is an embryonic program in which epithelial cells lose their characteristics and gain mesenchymal features. Therefore, EMT might play a very important role during malignant tumour progression. In this review we summarise recent advances in breast cancer research with a particular focus on the transcription factors Snail1 and Twist1. Besides discussing the role of EMT in normal mammary gland development, we describe regulatory mechanisms involving newly discovered upstream regulators and microRNAs, the association of EMT with breast cancer stem cells, and the involvement of the tumour microenvironment in breast cancer progression.
doi:10.1186/bcr2585
PMCID: PMC2917026  PMID: 20594364
23.  Snail promotes an invasive phenotype in lung carcinoma 
Respiratory Research  2012;13(1):104.
Background
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).
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1465-9921-13-104
PMCID: PMC3546026  PMID: 23157169
Lung; Carcinoma; Snail; Claudin; MMP
24.  Novel Snail1 Target Proteins in Human Colon Cancer Identified by Proteomic Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10221.
Background
The transcription factor Snail1 induces epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a process responsible for the acquisition of invasiveness during tumorigenesis. Several transcriptomic studies have reported Snail1-regulated genes in different cell types, many of them involved in cell adhesion. However, only a few studies have used proteomics as a tool for the characterization of proteins mediating EMT.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We identified by proteomic analysis using 2D-DIGE electrophoresis combined with MALDI-TOF-TOF and ESI-linear ion trap mass spectrometry a number of proteins with variable functions whose expression is modulated by Snail1 in SW480-ADH human colon cancer cells. Validation was performed by Western blot and immunofluorescence analyses. Snail1 repressed several members of the 14-3-3 family of phosphoserine/phosphothreonine binding proteins and also the expression of the Proliferation-associated protein 2G4 (PA2G4) that was mainly localized at the nuclear Cajal bodies. In contrast, the expression of two proteins involved in RNA processing, the Cleavage and polyadenylation specificity factor subunit 6 (CPSF6) and the Splicing factor proline/glutamine-rich (SFPQ), was higher in Snail1-expressing cells than in controls. The regulation of 14-3-3ε, 14-3-3τ, 14-3-3ζ and PA2G4 by Snail1 was reproduced in HT29 colon cancer cells. In addition, we found an inverse correlation between 14-3-3σ and Snail1 expression in human colorectal tumors.
Conclusions/Significance
We have identified a set of novel Snail1 target proteins in colon cancer that expand the cellular processes affected by Snail1 and thus its relevance for cell function and phenotype.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010221
PMCID: PMC2857666  PMID: 20421926
25.  Diagnostic utility of snail in metaplastic breast carcinoma 
Diagnostic Pathology  2010;5:76.
Metaplastic breast carcinoma (MBC) is a rare subtype of breast cancer characterized by coexistence of carcinomatous and sarcomatous components. Snail is a nuclear transcription factor incriminated in the transition of epithelial to mesenchymal differentiation of breast cancer. Aberrant Snail expression results in lost expression of the cell adhesion molecule E-cadherin, an event associated with changes in epithelial architecture and invasive growth. We aimed to identify the utility of Snail, and of traditional immunohistochemical markers, in accurate MBC classification and to evaluate clinicopathologic characteristics and outcome.
We retrospectively reviewed 34 MBC cases from January 1997 to September 2007. The control group contained 26 spindle cell lesions. Immunohistochemistry used Snail, p63, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), OSCAR, and wide spectrum cytokeratin (WS-KER). Negative was a score less than 1%. We found that Snail and EGFR are sensitive (100%) markers with low specificity (3.8% and 19.2%) for detecting MBC. p63 and WS-KER are specific (100%), with moderate sensitivity (67.6% and 76.5%); OSCAR is sensitive (85.3%) and specific (92.3%). A combination of any 2 of the p63, OSCAR, and WS-KER markers increased sensitivity and specificity. MBCs tended to be high-grade (77%), triple negative (negative for estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and HER2) [27/33; 81.8%], and carcinomas with low incidence of axillary lymph node involvement (15%), and decreased disease-free [71% (95%CI: 54%, 94%) at 3 yrs.) and overall survival. A combination of p63, OSCAR and WS-KER are useful in its work-up. On the other hand, Snail is neither a diagnostic nor a prognostic marker for MBC.
doi:10.1186/1746-1596-5-76
PMCID: PMC3003230  PMID: 21110878

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