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1.  Calcineurin initiates smooth muscle differentiation in neural crest stem cells 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2004;165(4):483-491.
The process of vascular smooth muscle cell (vSMC) differentiation is critical to embryonic angiogenesis. However, despite its importance, the vSMC differentiation program remains largely undefined. Murine gene disruption studies have identified several gene products that are necessary for vSMC differentiation, but these methodologies cannot establish whether or not a factor is sufficient to initiate the differentiation program. A gain-of-function system consisting of normal vSMC progenitor cells would serve as a useful complement to whole animal loss-of-function studies. We use such a system here, namely freshly isolated rat neural crest stem cells (NCSCs), to show that activation of the calcineurin signaling pathway is sufficient to drive these cells toward a smooth muscle fate. In addition, we present data suggesting that transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1, which also causes NCSCs to differentiate into smooth muscle, activates calcineurin signaling in NCSCs, leading to a model in which activation of calcineurin signaling is the mechanism by which TGF-β1 causes SMC differentiation in these cells.
PMCID: PMC2172346  PMID: 15148306
vascular smooth muscle; cell differentiation; transforming growth factor-β; physiologic angiogenesis; transcription factors
2.  N-Cadherin Extracellular Repeat 4 Mediates Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition and Increased Motility 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2000;151(6):1193-1206.
E- and N-cadherin are members of the classical cadherin family of proteins. E-cadherin plays an important role in maintaining the normal phenotype of epithelial cells. Previous studies from our laboratory and other laboratories have shown that inappropriate expression of N-cadherin by tumor cells derived from epithelial tissue results in conversion of the cell to a more fibroblast-like cell, with increased motility and invasion. Our present study was designed to determine which domains of N-cadherin make it different from E-cadherin, with respect to altering cellular behavior, such as which domains are responsible for the epithelial to mesenchymal transition and increased cell motility and invasion. To address this question, we constructed chimeric cadherins comprised of selected domains of E- and N-cadherin. The chimeras were transfected into epithelial cells to determine their effect on cell morphology and cellular behavior. We found that a 69–amino acid portion of EC-4 of N-cadherin was necessary and sufficient to promote both an epithelial to mesenchymal transition in squamous epithelial cells and increased cell motility. Here, we show that different cadherin family members promote different cellular behaviors. In addition, we identify a novel activity that can be ascribed to the extracellular domain of N-cadherin.
PMCID: PMC2190584  PMID: 11121435
N-cadherin; E-cadherin; cancer; motility; invasion
3.  Cross-Talk between Adherens Junctions and Desmosomes Depends on Plakoglobin 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1997;136(4):919-934.
Squamous epithelial cells have both adherens junctions and desmosomes. The ability of these cells to organize the desmosomal proteins into a functional structure depends upon their ability first to organize an adherens junction. Since the adherens junction and the desmosome are separate structures with different molecular make up, it is not immediately obvious why formation of an adherens junction is a prerequisite for the formation of a desmosome. The adherens junction is composed of a transmembrane classical cadherin (E-cadherin and/or P-cadherin in squamous epithelial cells) linked to either β-catenin or plakoglobin, which is linked to α-catenin, which is linked to the actin cytoskeleton. The desmosome is composed of transmembrane proteins of the broad cadherin family (desmogleins and desmocollins) that are linked to the intermediate filament cytoskeleton, presumably through plakoglobin and desmoplakin. To begin to study the role of adherens junctions in the assembly of desmosomes, we produced an epithelial cell line that does not express classical cadherins and hence is unable to organize desmosomes, even though it retains the requisite desmosomal components. Transfection of E-cadherin and/or P-cadherin into this cell line did not restore the ability to organize desmosomes; however, overexpression of plakoglobin, along with E-cadherin, did permit desmosome organization. These data suggest that plakoglobin, which is the only known common component to both adherens junctions and desmosomes, must be linked to E-cadherin in the adherens junction before the cell can begin to assemble desmosomal components at regions of cell–cell contact. Although adherens junctions can form in the absence of plakoglobin, making use only of β-catenin, such junctions cannot support the formation of desmosomes. Thus, we speculate that plakoglobin plays a signaling role in desmosome organization.
PMCID: PMC2132504  PMID: 9049256

Results 1-3 (3)