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1.  E-cadherin/catenin complexes are formed co-translationally in the endoplasmic reticulum/Golgi compartments 
Cell communication & adhesion  2008;15(4):365-378.
Cadherins are synthesized with a pro-region that lies between a short amino-terminal signal sequence and the first extracellular domain. Following synthesis, the pro-region is cleaved, an event that is mandatory for the mature cadherin to function in adhesion. We have previously reported that catenins co-immunoprecipate with pro-N-cadherin, and that the N-cadherin/catenin complex forms in the Golgi/endoplasmic reticulum. It is clear that N- and E-cadherin confer significantly different characteristics on cells, and it is possible that N- and E-cadherin/catenin complex formation is equally different. To investigate this we generated an antibody against the pro-region of E-cadherin and have used it to examine the assembly of the E-cadherin/catenin complex.
PMCID: PMC2742162  PMID: 18937087
E-cadherin; pro-sequence; catenin; N-cadherin; Golgi complex; adhesion
2.  Generation and Characterization of Monoclonal Antibodies Against the Proregion of Human Desmoglein-2 
Hybridoma  2008;27(4):249-258.
Cadherins are synthesized with a signal sequence and a proregion that must be removed for optimal adhesive activity. Mutations that prevent processing of cadherins have been implicated in a number of human diseases; thus understanding their processing is critical. In this study, we produced and characterized a number of monoclonal antibodies against the proregion of the desmosomal cadherin, human desmoglein-2, that will facilitate investigations into the processing of this protein.
PMCID: PMC3186698  PMID: 18707543
3.  The regulatory or phosphorylation domain of p120 catenin controls E-cadherin dynamics at the plasma membrane 
Experimental cell research  2007;314(1):52-67.
In contrast to growth factor-stimulated tyrosine phosphorylation of p120, its relatively constitutive serine/threonine phosphorylation is not well understood. Here we examined the role of serine/threonine phosphorylation of p120 in cadherin function. Expression of cadherins in cadherin-null cells converted them to an epithelial phenotype, induced p120 phosphorylation and localized it to sites of cell contact. Detergent solubility and immunofluorescence confirmed that phosphorylated p120 was at the plasma membrane. E-cadherin constructs incapable of traveling to the plasma membrane did not induce serine/threonine phosphorylation of p120, nor did cadherins constructs incapable of binding p120. However, an E-cadherin cytoplasmic domain construct artificially targeted to the plasma membrane did induce serine/threonine phosphorylation of p120, suggesting phosphorylation occurs independently of signals from cadherin dimerization and trafficking through the ER/Golgi. Solubility assays following calcium switch showed that p120 isoform 3A was more effective at stabilizing E-cadherin at the plasma membrane relative to isoform 4A. Since the major phosphorylation domain of p120 is included in isoform 3A but not 4A, we tested p120 mutated in the known phosphorylation sites in this domain, and found that it was even less effective at stabilizing E-cadherin. These data suggest that serine/threonine phosphorylation of p120 influences the dynamics of E-cadherin in junctions.
PMCID: PMC2211447  PMID: 17719574
p120 catenin; E-cadherin; membrane dynamics
4.  Collagen I Promotes Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition in Lung Cancer Cells via Transforming Growth Factor–β Signaling 
Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a fundamental biological process whereby epithelial cells lose their polarity and undergo a transition to a mesenchymal phenotype. When cancer cells invade adjacent tissues, they use a mechanism akin to EMT, and understanding the molecular mechanisms that drive this transition will facilitate studies into new targets for prevention of metastasis. Extracellular stimuli, such as growth factors, and their cytosolic effectors cooperate to promote EMT. In highly fibrotic cancers like lung cancer, it is thought that extracellular matrix molecules, including collagen, can initiate signals that promote EMT. Here, we present data showing that collagen I induces EMT in non–small cell lung cancer cell lines, which is prevented by blocking transforming growth factor (TGF)-β3 signaling. In addition, we show that collagen I–induced EMT is prevented by inhibitors of phosphoinositide 3-kinase and extracellular signal-related kinase signaling, which promotes transcription of TGF-β3 mRNA in these cells. Thus, our data are consistent with the hypothesis that collagen I induces EMT in lung cancer cells by activating autocrine TGF-β3 signaling. Epidermal growth factor also seems to initiate EMT via a TGF-dependent mechanism.
PMCID: PMC2176131  PMID: 17673689
non–small cell lung cancer; epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition; cadherin switching; collagen I; transforming growth factor–β
5.  Collagen I–mediated up-regulation of N-cadherin requires cooperative signals from integrins and discoidin domain receptor 1 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2008;180(6):1277-1289.
Tumor cells undergo epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) to convert from a benign to a malignant phenotype. Our recent focus has been signaling pathways that promote EMT in response to collagen. We have shown that human pancreatic cancer cells respond to collagen by up-regulating N-cadherin, which promotes tumor growth, invasion, and metastasis. Initial characterization showed that knocking down c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase prevented N-cadherin up-regulation and limited tumor growth and invasion in a mouse model for pancreatic cancer. The current study was designed to understand the pathway from collagen to N-cadherin up-regulation. Initiation of the signal requires two collagen receptors, α2β1 integrin and discoidin domain receptor (DDR) 1. Each receptor propagates signals through separate pathways that converge to up-regulate N-cadherin. Focal adhesion kinase (FAK)–related protein tyrosine kinase (Pyk2) is downstream of DDR1, whereas FAK is downstream of α2β1 integrin. Both receptor complexes rely on the p130 Crk-associated substrate scaffold. Interestingly, Rap1, but not Rho family guanosine triphosphatases, is required for the response to collagen I.
PMCID: PMC2290851  PMID: 18362184
6.  NHERF Links the N-Cadherin/Catenin Complex to the Platelet-derived Growth Factor Receptor to Modulate the Actin Cytoskeleton and Regulate Cell Motility 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2007;18(4):1220-1232.
Using phage display, we identified Na+/H+ exchanger regulatory factor (NHERF)-2 as a novel binding partner for the cadherin-associated protein, β-catenin. We showed that the second of two PSD-95/Dlg/ZO-1 (PDZ) domains of NHERF interacts with a PDZ-binding motif at the very carboxy terminus of β-catenin. N-cadherin expression has been shown to induce motility in a number of cell types. The first PDZ domain of NHERF is known to bind platelet-derived growth factor-receptor β (PDGF-Rβ), and the interaction of PDGF-Rβ with NHERF leads to enhanced cell spreading and motility. Here we show that β-catenin and N-cadherin are in a complex with NHERF and PDGF-Rβ at membrane ruffles in the highly invasive fibrosarcoma cell line HT1080. Using a stable short hairpin RNA system, we showed that HT1080 cells knocked down for either N-cadherin or NHERF had impaired ability to migrate into the wounded area in a scratch assay, similar to cells treated with a PDGF-R kinase inhibitor. Cells expressing a mutant NHERF that is unable to associate with β-catenin had increased stress fibers, reduced lamellipodia, and impaired cell migration. Using HeLa cells, which express little to no PDGF-R, we introduced PDGF-Rβ and showed that it coimmunoprecipitates with N-cadherin and that PDGF-dependent cell migration was reduced in these cells when we knocked-down expression of N-cadherin or NHERF. These studies implicate N-cadherin and β-catenin in cell migration via PDGF-R–mediated signaling through the scaffolding molecule NHERF.
PMCID: PMC1838972  PMID: 17229887
7.  Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase–Rac1–c-Jun NH2-terminal Kinase Signaling Mediates Collagen I–induced Cell Scattering and Up-Regulation of N-Cadherin Expression in Mouse Mammary Epithelial Cells 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2006;17(7):2963-2975.
During epithelial-to-mesenchymal transitions (EMTs), cells must change their interactions with one another and with their extracellular matrix in a synchronized manner. To characterize signaling pathways cells use to coordinate these changes, we used NMuMG mammary epithelial cells. We showed that these cells become fibroblastic and scattered, with increased N-cadherin expression when cultured on collagen I. Rac1 and c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) were activated when cells were plated on collagen I, and dominant inhibitory Rac1 (RacN17) or inhibition of JNK signaling prevented collagen I–induced morphological changes and N-cadherin up-regulation. Furthermore, inhibiting phosphoinositide-3 kinase (PI3K) activity prevented Rac1 and JNK activation as well as collagen I–induced N-cadherin up-regulation. These data implicate PI3K–Rac1–JNK signaling in collagen I–induced changes in NMuMG cells. To establish a role for N-cadherin in collagen I–induced cell scattering, we generated N-cadherin overexpressing and knockdown NMuMG cells and showed that knocking down N-cadherin expression prevented collagen I–induced morphological changes. Motility assays showed that cells overexpressing N-cadherin were significantly more motile than mock-transfected cells and that N-cadherin-mediated motility was collagen I dependent. In addition, we showed that cord formation and branching in three-dimensional culture (EMT-dependent events) required N-cadherin expression and PI3K–Rac1–JNK signaling.
PMCID: PMC1483033  PMID: 16624865
8.  Assembly of Connexin43 into Gap Junctions Is Regulated Differentially by E-Cadherin and N-Cadherin in Rat Liver Epithelial Cells 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2010;21(23):4089-4107.
E-cadherin and N-cadherin affect the assembly of connexin43 into gap junctions differentially. N-cadherin disrupts assembly by triggering endocytosis of connexin43, whereas E-cadherin facilitates the assembly.
Cadherins have been thought to facilitate the assembly of connexins (Cxs) into gap junctions (GJs) by enhancing cell–cell contact, however the molecular mechanisms involved in this process have remained unexplored. We examined the assembly of GJs composed of Cx43 in isogenic clones derived from immortalized and nontransformed rat liver epithelial cells that expressed either epithelial cadherin (E-Cad), which curbs the malignant behavior of tumor cells, or neuronal cadherin (N-Cad), which augments the invasive and motile behavior of tumor cells. We found that N-cad expression attenuated the assembly of Cx43 into GJs, whereas E-Cad expression facilitated the assembly. The expression of N-Cad inhibited GJ assembly by causing endocytosis of Cx43 via a nonclathrin-dependent pathway. Knock down of N-Cad by ShRNA restored GJ assembly. When both cadherins were simultaneously expressed in the same cell type, GJ assembly and disassembly occurred concurrently. Our findings demonstrate that E-Cad and N-Cad have opposite effects on the assembly of Cx43 into GJs in rat liver epithelial cells. These findings imply that GJ assembly and disassembly are the down-stream targets of the signaling initiated by E-Cad and N-Cad, respectively, and may provide one possible explanation for the disparate role played by these cadherins in regulating cell motility and invasion during tumor progression and invasion.
PMCID: PMC2993739  PMID: 20881055
9.  Expression artifact with retroviral vectors based on pBMN 
Analytical biochemistry  2009;395(1):49-53.
While characterizing various splice forms of p120 catenin, we observed what appeared to be a novel post-translational modification of 120 resulting in a higher molecular weight form that was dependent upon the splicing pattern. Further investigation revealed the higher molecular weight form to be a fusion protein between sequences encoded by the retroviral vector and p120. We found that the publicly available sequence of the vector we used does not agree with the experimental sequence. We caution other investigators to be aware of this potential artifact.
PMCID: PMC2753488  PMID: 19602420
p120 catenin; pBMN; LZRS; retroviral vector
10.  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
11.  Selective Uncoupling of P120ctn from E-Cadherin Disrupts Strong Adhesion 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2000;148(1):189-202.
p120ctn is a catenin whose direct binding to the juxtamembrane domain of classical cadherins suggests a role in regulating cell–cell adhesion. The juxtamembrane domain has been implicated in a variety of roles including cadherin clustering, cell motility, and neuronal outgrowth, raising the possibility that p120 mediates these activities. We have generated minimal mutations in this region that uncouple the E-cadherin–p120 interaction, but do not affect interactions with other catenins. By stable transfection into E-cadherin–deficient cell lines, we show that cadherins are both necessary and sufficient for recruitment of p120 to junctions. Detergent-free subcellular fractionation studies indicated that, in contrast to previous reports, the stoichiometry of the interaction is extremely high. Unlike α- and β-catenins, p120 was metabolically stable in cadherin-deficient cells, and was present at high levels in the cytoplasm. Analysis of cells expressing E-cadherin mutant constructs indicated that p120 is required for the E-cadherin–mediated transition from weak to strong adhesion. In aggregation assays, cells expressing p120-uncoupled E-cadherin formed only weak cell aggregates, which immediately dispersed into single cells upon pipetting. As an apparent consequence, the actin cytoskeleton failed to insert properly into peripheral E-cadherin plaques, resulting in the inability to form a continuous circumferential ring around cell colonies. Our data suggest that p120 directly or indirectly regulates the E-cadherin–mediated transition to tight cell–cell adhesion, possibly blocking subsequent events necessary for reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton and compaction.
PMCID: PMC2156209  PMID: 10629228
metastasis; catenin; compaction; clustering; adherens junction
12.  N-Cadherin Promotes Motility in Human Breast Cancer Cells Regardless of Their E-Cadherin Expression 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1999;147(3):631-644.
E-cadherin is a transmembrane glycoprotein that mediates calcium-dependent, homotypic cell–cell adhesion and plays a role in maintaining the normal phenotype of epithelial cells. Decreased expression of E-cadherin has been correlated with increased invasiveness of breast cancer. In other systems, inappropriate expression of a nonepithelial cadherin, such as N-cadherin, by an epithelial cell has been shown to downregulate E-cadherin expression and to contribute to a scattered phenotype. In this study, we explored the possibility that expression of nonepithelial cadherins may be correlated with increased motility and invasion in breast cancer cells. We show that N-cadherin promotes motility and invasion; that decreased expression of E-cadherin does not necessarily correlate with motility or invasion; that N-cadherin expression correlates both with invasion and motility, and likely plays a direct role in promoting motility; that forced expression of E-cadherin in invasive, N-cadherin–positive cells does not reduce their motility or invasive capacity; that forced expression of N-cadherin in noninvasive, E-cadherin–positive cells produces an invasive cell, even though these cells continue to express high levels of E-cadherin; that N-cadherin–dependent motility may be mediated by FGF receptor signaling; and that cadherin-11 promotes epithelial cell motility in a manner similar to N-cadherin.
PMCID: PMC2151177  PMID: 10545506
N-cadherin; E-cadherin; breast cancer; motility; fibroblast growth factor receptor
13.  Regulation of β-Catenin Levels and Localization by Overexpression of Plakoglobin and Inhibition of the Ubiquitin-Proteasome System  
The Journal of Cell Biology  1997;139(5):1325-1335.
β-Catenin and plakoglobin (γ-catenin) are closely related molecules of the armadillo family of proteins. They are localized at the submembrane plaques of cell–cell adherens junctions where they form independent complexes with classical cadherins and α-catenin to establish the link with the actin cytoskeleton. Plakoglobin is also found in a complex with desmosomal cadherins and is involved in anchoring intermediate filaments to desmosomal plaques. In addition to their role in junctional assembly, β-catenin has been shown to play an essential role in signal transduction by the Wnt pathway that results in its translocation into the nucleus. To study the relationship between plakoglobin expression and the level of β-catenin, and the localization of these proteins in the same cell, we employed two different tumor cell lines that express N-cadherin, and α- and β-catenin, but no plakoglobin or desmosomal components. Individual clones expressing various levels of plakoglobin were established by stable transfection. Plakoglobin overexpression resulted in a dose-dependent decrease in the level of β-catenin in each clone. Induction of plakoglobin expression increased the turnover of β-catenin without affecting RNA levels, suggesting posttranslational regulation of β-catenin. In plakoglobin overexpressing cells, both β-catenin and plakoglobin were localized at cell– cell junctions. Stable transfection of mutant plakoglobin molecules showed that deletion of the N-cadherin binding domain, but not the α-catenin binding domain, abolished β-catenin downregulation. Inhibition of the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway in plakoglobin overexpressing cells blocked the decrease in β-catenin levels and resulted in accumulation of both β-catenin and plakoglobin in the nucleus. These results suggest that (a) plakoglobin substitutes effectively with β-catenin for association with N-cadherin in adherens junctions, (b) extrajunctional β-catenin is rapidly degraded by the proteasome-ubiquitin system but, (c) excess β-catenin and plakoglobin translocate into the nucleus.
PMCID: PMC2140206  PMID: 9382877
14.  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

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