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1.  Repression of PTEN Phosphatase by Snail1 Transcriptional Factor during Gamma Radiation-Induced Apoptosis▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2008;28(5):1528-1540.
The product of the Snail1 gene is a transcriptional repressor required for triggering the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Furthermore, ectopic expression of Snail1 in epithelial cells promotes resistance to apoptosis. In this study, we demonstrate that this resistance to γ radiation-induced apoptosis caused by Snail1 is associated with the inhibition of PTEN phosphatase. In MDCK cells, mRNA levels of the p53 target gene PTEN are induced after γ radiation; the transfection of Snail1 prevents this up-regulation. Decreased mRNA levels of PTEN were also detected in RWP-1 cells after the ectopic expression of this transcriptional factor. Snail1 represses and associates to the PTEN promoter as detected both by the electrophoretic mobility shift assay and chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments performed with either endogenous or ectopic Snail1. The binding of Snail1 to the PTEN promoter increases after γ radiation, correlating with the stabilization of Snail1 protein, and prevents the association of p53 to the PTEN promoter. These results stress the critical role of Snail1 in the control of apoptosis and demonstrate the regulation of PTEN phosphatase by this transcriptional repressor.
PMCID: PMC2258777  PMID: 18172008
2.  Polycomb Complex 2 Is Required for E-cadherin Repression by the Snail1 Transcription Factor▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2008;28(15):4772-4781.
The transcriptional factor Snail1 is a repressor of E-cadherin (CDH1) gene expression essential for triggering epithelial-mesenchymal transition. Snail1 represses CDH1, directly binding its promoter and inducing the synthesis of the Zeb1 repressor. In this article, we show that repression of CDH1 by Snail1, but not by Zeb1, is dependent on the activity of Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2). Embryonic stem (ES) cells null for Suz12, one of the components of PRC2, show higher levels of Cdh1 mRNA than control ES cells. In tumor cells, interference of PRC2 activity prevents the ability of Snail1 to downregulate CDH1 and partially derepresses CDH1. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays demonstrated that Snail1 increases the binding of Suz12 to the CDH1 promoter and the trimethylation of lysine 27 in histone H3. Moreover, Snail1 interacts with Suz12 and Ezh2, as shown by coimmunoprecipitation experiments. In conclusion, these results demonstrate that Snail1 recruits PRC2 to the CDH1 promoter and requires the activity of this complex to repress E-cadherin expression.
PMCID: PMC2493371  PMID: 18519590
3.  Ajuba LIM proteins are Snail/Slug corepressors required for neural crest development in Xenopus 
Developmental cell  2008;14(3):424-436.
Snail family transcriptional repressors regulate epithelial mesenchymal transitions during physiological and pathological processes. A conserved SNAG repression domain present in all vertebrate Snail proteins is necessary for repressor complex assembly. Here, we identify the Ajuba family of LIM proteins as functional corepressors of the Snail family via an interaction with the SNAG domain. Ajuba LIM proteins interact with Snail in the nucleus on endogenous E-cadherin promoters and contribute to Snail-dependent repression of E-cadherin. Using Xenopus neural crest as a model of in vivo Snail- or Slug-induced EMT, we demonstrate that Ajuba LIM proteins contribute to neural crest development as Snail/Slug corepressors and are required for in vivo Snail/Slug function. Because Ajuba LIM proteins are also components of adherens junction and contribute to their assembly or stability, their functional interaction with Snail proteins in the nucleus suggests that Ajuba LIM proteins are important regulators of epithelia dynamics communicating surface events with nuclear responses.
PMCID: PMC2279146  PMID: 18331720
LIM proteins; Snail; Slug; Neural crest development; Epithelial Mesenchymal Transitions; E-cadherin; Xenopus
4.  Inhibiting interactions of lysine demethylase LSD1 with Snail/Slug blocks cancer cell invasion 
Cancer research  2012;73(1):235-245.
The process of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) which is required for cancer cell invasion is regulated by a family of E-box binding transcription repressors which include Snail (SNAI) and Slug (SNAI2). Snail appears to repress the expression of the EMT marker E-cadherin by epigenetic mechanisms dependent on the interaction of its N-terminal SNAG domain with chromatin modifying proteins including lysine specific demethylase 1 (LSD1/KDM1A). We assessed whether blocking Snail/Slug-LSD1 interaction by treatment with Parnate, an enzymatic inhibitor of LSD1, or TAT-SNAG, a cell-permeable peptide corresponding to the SNAG domain of Slug, suppresses the motility and invasiveness of cancer cells of different origin and genetic background. We show here that either treatment blocked Slug-dependent repression of the E-cadherin promoter and inhibited the motility and invasion of tumor cell lines without any effect on their proliferation. These effects correlated with induction of epithelial and repression of mesenchymal markers and were phenocopied by LSD1 or Slug down-regulation. Parnate treatment also inhibited bone marrow homing/engraftment of Slug-expressing K562 cells. Together, these studies support the concept that targeting Snail/Slug-dependent transcription repression complexes may lead to the development of novel drugs selectively inhibiting the invasive potential of cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC3537890  PMID: 23054398
5.  Transcriptional Activation of ZEB1 by Slug Leads to Cooperative Regulation of the EMT like Phenotype in Melanoma 
The E-box binding zinc finger transcription factors Slug and ZEB1 are important repressors of E-cadherin, contributing to epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in primary epithelial cancers. Activator or repressor status of EMT transcription factors defines consequences for tumorigenesis. We show that changes in expression levels of Slug in melanoma cell lines lead to concomitant alterations of ZEB1 expression. Electrophoretic mobility shift, luciferase reporter and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays identified Slug as a direct transcriptional activator at E-boxes of the ZEB1 promoter. Transcriptional activation of ZEB1 was demonstrated to be specific for Slug, since EMT regulators Snail and Twist failed to influence ZEB1 expression. Slug and ZEB1 cooperatively repressed E-cadherin expression resulting in decreased adhesion to human keratinocytes, but promoted migration of melanoma cells. Our results show that the transcriptional activity of ZEB1 is increased by Slug, suggesting a hierarchical organized expression of EMT transcription factors through directed activation, triggering an EMT-like process in melanoma.
PMCID: PMC3182526  PMID: 21593765
6.  A p53/miRNA-34 axis regulates Snail1-dependent cancer cell epithelial–mesenchymal transition 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2011;195(3):417-433.
Expression of the essential EMT inducer Snail1 is inhibited by miR-34 through a p53-dependent regulatory pathway.
Snail1 is a zinc finger transcriptional repressor whose pathological expression has been linked to cancer cell epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) programs and the induction of tissue-invasive activity, but pro-oncogenic events capable of regulating Snail1 activity remain largely uncharacterized. Herein, we demonstrate that p53 loss-of-function or mutation promotes cancer cell EMT by de-repressing Snail1 protein expression and activity. In the absence of wild-type p53 function, Snail1-dependent EMT is activated in colon, breast, and lung carcinoma cells as a consequence of a decrease in miRNA-34 levels, which suppress Snail1 activity by binding to highly conserved 3′ untranslated regions in Snail1 itself as well as those of key Snail1 regulatory molecules, including β-catenin, LEF1, and Axin2. Although p53 activity can impact cell cycle regulation, apoptosis, and DNA repair pathways, the EMT and invasion programs initiated by p53 loss of function or mutation are completely dependent on Snail1 expression. These results identify a new link between p53, miR-34, and Snail1 in the regulation of cancer cell EMT programs.
PMCID: PMC3206336  PMID: 22024162
7.  Snail transcription factor negatively regulates maspin tumor suppressor in human prostate cancer cells 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:336.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3437215  PMID: 22857708
Snail; Maspin; Prostate cancer
8.  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.
PMCID: PMC2423142  PMID: 18347060
9.  Snail1 controls TGF-β responsiveness and differentiation of Mesenchymal Stem Cells 
Oncogene  2012;32(28):3381-3389.
The Snail1 transcriptional repressor plays a key role in triggering epithelial to mesenchymal transition. Although Snail1 is widely expressed in early development, in adult animals it is limited to a subset of mesenchymal cells where it has a largely unknown function. Using a mouse model with inducible depletion of Snail1, here we demonstrate that Snail1 is required to maintain mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). This effect is associated to the responsiveness to TGF-β1 which shows a strong Snail1 dependence. Snail1-depletion in conditional knock-out adult animals causes a significant decrease in the number of bone marrow-derived MSCs. In culture, Snail1-deficient MSCs prematurely differentiate to osteoblasts or adipocytes and, in contrast to controls, are resistant to the TGF-β1-induced differentiation block. These results demonstrate a new role for Snail1 in TGF-β response and MSC maintenance.
PMCID: PMC3494751  PMID: 22869142
Snail1; mesenchymal stem cells; TGF-β; Akt
10.  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
11.  A PHD12–Snail2 repressive complex epigenetically mediates neural crest epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2012;198(6):999-1010.
Snail2 and the adaptor protein PHD12 are recruited to the Cad6b promoter by Sin3A and result in promoter deacetylation, revealing the nature of the in vivo Snail repressive complex that regulates neural crest EMT.
Neural crest cells form within the neural tube and then undergo an epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) to initiate migration to distant locations. The transcriptional repressor Snail2 has been implicated in neural crest EMT via an as of yet unknown mechanism. We report that the adaptor protein PHD12 is highly expressed before neural crest EMT. At cranial levels, loss of PHD12 phenocopies Snail2 knockdown, preventing transcriptional shutdown of the adhesion molecule Cad6b (Cadherin6b), thereby inhibiting neural crest emigration. Although not directly binding to each other, PHD12 and Snail2 both directly interact with Sin3A in vivo, which in turn complexes with histone deacetylase (HDAC). Chromatin immunoprecipitation revealed that PHD12 is recruited to the Cad6b promoter during neural crest EMT. Consistent with this, lysines on histone 3 at the Cad6b promoter are hyperacetylated before neural crest emigration, correlating with active transcription, but deacetylated during EMT, reflecting the repressive state. Knockdown of either PHD12 or Snail2 prevents Cad6b promoter deacetylation. Collectively, the results show that PHD12 interacts directly with Sin3A/HDAC, which in turn interacts with Snail2, forming a complex at the Cad6b promoter and thus revealing the nature of the in vivo Snail repressive complex that regulates neural crest EMT.
PMCID: PMC3444776  PMID: 22986495
12.  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.
PMCID: PMC2894621  PMID: 20501852
Snail; 14-3-3; Ajuba; epithelial-mesenchymal transition; transcriptional repression
13.  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.
PMCID: PMC2483533  PMID: 18663143
14.  Snail2 is an essential mediator of Twist1-induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition and metastasis 
Cancer research  2011;71(1):245-254.
To metastasize, carcinoma cells must attenuate cell-cell adhesion to disseminate into distant organs. A group of transcription factors, including Twist1, Snail1, Snail2, ZEB1, and ZEB2, have been shown to induce Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT), thus promoting tumor dissemination. However, it is unknown whether these transcription factors function independently or coordinately to activate the EMT program. Here we report that direct induction of Snail2 is essential for Twist1 to induce EMT. Snail2 knockdown completely blocks the ability of Twist1 to suppress E-cadherin transcription. Twist1 binds to an evolutionarily conserved E-box on the proximate Snail2 promoter to induce its transcription. Snail2 induction is essential for Twist1-induced cell invasion and distant metastasis in mice. In human breast tumors, the expression of Twist1 and Snail2 is highly correlated. Together, our results show that Twist1 needs to induce Snail2 to suppress the epithelial branch of the EMT program and that Twist1 and Snail2 act together to promote EMT and tumor metastasis.
PMCID: PMC3025803  PMID: 21199805
tumor metastasis; E-cadherin; Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition; Snail2; Twist1
15.  Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor-γ Inhibits Transformed Growth of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Cells through Selective Suppression of Snail12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2010;12(3):224-234.
Work from our laboratory and others has demonstrated that activation of the nuclear receptor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPARγ) inhibits transformed growth of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines in vitro and in vivo. We have demonstrated that activation of PPARγ promotes epithelial differentiation of NSCLC by increasing expression of E-cadherin, as well as inhibiting expression of COX-2 and nuclear factor-κB. The Snail family of transcription factors, which includes Snail (Snail1), Slug (Snail2), and ZEB1, is an important regulator of epithelial-mesenchymal transition, as well as cell survival. The goal of this study was to determine whether the biological responses to rosiglitazone, a member of the thiazolidinedione family of PPARγ activators, are mediated through the regulation of Snail family members. Our results indicate that, in two independent NSCLC cell lines, rosiglitazone specifically decreased expression of Snail, with no significant effect on either Slug or ZEB1. Suppression of Snail using short hairpin RNA silencing mimicked the effects of PPARγ activation, in inhibiting anchorage-independent growth, promoting acinar formation in three-dimensional culture, and inhibiting invasiveness. This was associated with the increased expression of E-cadherin and decreased expression of COX-2 and matrix metaloproteinases. Conversely, overexpression of Snail blocked the biological responses to rosiglitazone, increasing anchorage-independent growth, invasiveness, and promoting epithelial-mesenchymal transition. The suppression of Snail expression by rosiglitazone seemed to be independent of GSK-3 signaling but was rather mediated through suppression of extracellular signal-regulated kinase activity. These findings suggest that selective regulation of Snail may be critical in mediating the antitumorigenic effects of PPARγ activators.
PMCID: PMC2838440  PMID: 20234816
16.  Phosphorylation Regulates the Subcellular Location and Activity of the Snail Transcriptional Repressor 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(14):5078-5089.
The Snail gene product is a transcriptional repressor of E-cadherin expression and an inducer of the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in several epithelial tumor cell lines. This report presents data indicating that Snail function is controlled by its intracellular location. The cytosolic distribution of Snail depended on export from the nucleus by a CRM1-dependent mechanism, and a nuclear export sequence (NES) was located in the regulatory domain of this protein. Export of Snail was controlled by phosphorylation of a Ser-rich sequence adjacent to this NES. Modification of this sequence released the restriction created by the zinc finger domain and allowed nuclear export of the protein. The phosphorylation and subcellular distribution of Snail are controlled by cell attachment to the extracellular matrix. Suspended cells presented higher levels of phosphorylated Snail and an augmented extranuclear localization with respect to cells attached to the plate. These findings show the existence in tumor cells of an effective and fine-tuning nontranscriptional mechanism of regulation of Snail activity dependent on the extracellular environment.
PMCID: PMC162233  PMID: 12832491
17.  Snail is a repressor of RKIP transcription in metastatic prostate cancer cells 
Oncogene  2007;27(15):2243-2248.
Diminished expression of the metastasis suppressor protein RKIP was previously reported in a number of cancers. The underlying mechanism remains unknown. Here we show that the expression of RKIP negatively correlates with that of Snail zinc-transcriptional repressor, a key modulator of normal and neoplastic epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) program. With a combination of loss-of-function and gain-of-function approaches we showed that Snail repressed the expression of RKIP in metastatic prostate cancer cell lines. The effect of Snail on RKIP was on the level of transcriptional initiation and mediated by a proximal E-box on the RKIP promoter. Our results therefore suggest that RKIP is a novel component of the Snail transcriptional regulatory network important for the progression and metastasis of cancer.
PMCID: PMC2933472  PMID: 17952120
18.  The transcription factor snail represses Crumbs3 expression and disrupts apico-basal polarity complexes 
Oncogene  2008;27(27):3875-3879.
In epithelial cells, the tight junction divides the plasma membrane into distinct apical and basolateral domains. Polarization is essential for epithelial cell function, and apico-basal cell polarity is lost during the epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), a program of events characterized not only by loss of cell polarity, but also by enhanced cell motility and increased cell invasion. Among several apically localized protein complexes, the Crumbs and Par protein complexes have pivotal roles in control of epithelial polarity and apical membrane formation. Here, we demonstrate that the Snail transcriptional repressor antagonizes expression of the Crumbs polarity complex. We show that Snail abolishes localization of the Crumbs and Par complexes to the tight junction, decreases Crumbs complex protein levels and suppresses Crumbs3 transcription. Evidence that Snail acts directly to antagonize Crumbs3 promoter activity is presented. Strikingly, we note that reexpression of exogenous Crumbs3 in Snail-expressing Madin–Darby Canine Kidney cells partially restores cell–cell junctions. Moreover, we find that the EMT inducer transforming growth factor- β elicits transcriptional repression of Crumbs3 and results in a measurable loss of Crumbs3 protein. Our findings provide new insights into the links between the transcriptional repression function of Snail and its role in antagonizing key apico-basal polarity factors during EMT.
PMCID: PMC2533733  PMID: 18246119
Crumbs; Snail; apico-basal polarity; tight junction; epithelial to mesenchymal transition
19.  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.
PMCID: PMC2808231  PMID: 19923321
20.  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
21.  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
22.  Snail-Mediated Regulation of Reactive Oxygen Species in ARCaP Human Prostate Cancer Cells 
Reactive oxygen species increases in various diseases including cancer and has been associated with induction of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), as evidenced by decrease in cell adhesion-associated molecules like E-cadherin, and increase in mesenchymal markers like vimentin. We investigated the molecular mechanisms by which Snail transcription factor, an inducer of EMT, promotes tumor aggressiveness utilizing ARCaP prostate cancer cell line. An EMT model created by Snail overexpression in ARCaP cells was associated with decreased E-cadherin and increased vimentin. Moreover, Snail-expressing cells displayed increased concentration of reactive oxygen species (ROS), specifically, superoxide and hydrogen peroxide, in vitro and in vivo. Real time PCR profiling demonstrated increased expression of oxidative stress-responsive genes, such as aldeyhyde oxidase I, in response to Snail. The ROS scavenger, N-acetyl cysteine partially reversed Snail-mediated EMT after 7 days characterized by increased E-cadherin levels and decreased ERK activity, while treatment with the MEK inhibitor, UO126, resulted in a more marked effect by 3 days, characterized by cells returning back to the epithelial morphology and increased E-cadherin. In conclusion, this study shows for the first time that Snail transcription factor can regulate oxidative stress enzymes and increase ROS-mediated EMT regulated in part by ERK activation. Therefore, Snail may be an attractive molecule for therapeutic targeting to prevent tumor progression in human prostate cancer.
PMCID: PMC3021188  PMID: 21093414
Snail; EMT; ROS; prostate cancer
23.  Snail Mediates E-Cadherin Repression by the Recruitment of the Sin3A/Histone Deacetylase 1 (HDAC1)/HDAC2 Complex 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(1):306-319.
The transcription factor Snail has been described as a direct repressor of E-cadherin expression during development and carcinogenesis; however, the specific mechanisms involved in this process remain largely unknown. Here we show that mammalian Snail requires histone deacetylase (HDAC) activity to repress E-cadherin promoter and that treatment with trichostatin A (TSA) is sufficient to block the repressor effect of Snail. Moreover, overexpression of Snail is correlated with deacetylation of histones H3 and H4 at the E-cadherin promoter, and TSA treatment in Snail-expressing cells reverses the acetylation status of histones. Additionally, we demonstrate that Snail interacts in vivo with the E-cadherin promoter and recruits HDAC activity. Most importantly, we demonstrate an interaction between Snail, histone deacetylase 1 (HDAC1) and HDAC2, and the corepressor mSin3A. This interaction is dependent on the SNAG domain of Snail, indicating that the Snail transcription factor mediates the repression by recruitment of chromatin-modifying activities, forming a multimolecular complex to repress E-cadherin expression. Our results establish a direct causal relationship between Snail-dependent repression of E-cadherin and the modification of chromatin at its promoter.
PMCID: PMC303344  PMID: 14673164
24.  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.
PMCID: PMC3769970  PMID: 19597490
25.  The Transcription Factors Snail and Slug Activate the Transforming Growth Factor-Beta Signaling Pathway in Breast Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26514.
The transcriptional repressors Snail and Slug are situated at the core of several signaling pathways proposed to mediate epithelial to mesenchymal transition or EMT, which has been implicated in tumor metastasis. EMT involves an alteration from an organized, epithelial cell structure to a mesenchymal, invasive and migratory phenotype. In order to obtain a global view of the impact of Snail and Slug expression, we performed a microarray experiment using the MCF-7 breast cancer cell line, which does not express detectable levels of Snail or Slug. MCF-7 cells were infected with Snail, Slug or control adenovirus, and RNA samples isolated at various time points were analyzed across all transcripts. Our analyses indicated that Snail and Slug regulate many genes in common, but also have distinct sets of gene targets. Gene set enrichment analyses indicated that Snail and Slug directed the transcriptome of MCF-7 cells from a luminal towards a more complex pattern that includes many features of the claudin-low breast cancer signature. Of particular interest, genes involved in the TGF-beta signaling pathway are upregulated, while genes responsible for a differentiated morphology are downregulated following Snail or Slug expression. Further we noticed increased histone acetylation at the promoter region of the transforming growth factor beta-receptor II (TGFBR2) gene following Snail or Slug expression. Inhibition of the TGF-beta signaling pathway using selective small-molecule inhibitors following Snail or Slug addition resulted in decreased cell migration with no impact on the repression of cell junction molecules by Snail and Slug. We propose that there are two regulatory modules embedded within EMT: one that involves repression of cell junction molecules, and the other involving cell migration via TGF-beta and/or other pathways.
PMCID: PMC3197668  PMID: 22028892

Results 1-25 (906636)