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1.  A Switch in Akt Isoforms Is Required for Notch-Induced Snail1 Expression and Protection from Cell Death 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2016;36(6):923-940.
Notch activation in aortic endothelial cells (ECs) takes place at embryonic stages during cardiac valve formation and induces endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EndMT). Using aortic ECs, we show here that active Notch expression promotes EndMT, resulting in downregulation of vascular endothelial cadherin (VE-cadherin) and upregulation of mesenchymal genes such as those for fibronectin and Snail1/2. In these cells, transforming growth factor β1 exacerbates Notch effects by increasing Snail1 and fibronectin activation. When Notch-downstream pathways were analyzed, we detected an increase in glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK-3β) phosphorylation and inactivation that facilitates Snail1 nuclear retention and protein stabilization. However, the total activity of Akt was downregulated. The discrepancy between Akt activity and GSK-3β phosphorylation is explained by a Notch-induced switch in the Akt isoforms, whereby Akt1, the predominant isoform expressed in ECs, is decreased and Akt2 transcription is upregulated. Mechanistically, Akt2 induction requires the stimulation of the β-catenin/TCF4 transcriptional complex, which activates the Akt2 promoter. Active, phosphorylated Akt2 translocates to the nucleus in Notch-expressing cells, resulting in GSK-3β inactivation in this compartment. Akt2, but not Akt1, colocalizes in the nucleus with lamin B in the nuclear envelope. In addition to promoting GSK-3β inactivation, Notch downregulates Forkhead box O1 (FoxO1), another Akt2 nuclear substrate. Moreover, Notch protects ECs from oxidative stress-induced apoptosis through an Akt2- and Snail1-dependent mechanism.
PMCID: PMC4810475  PMID: 26711268
2.  Vitamin D and the Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition 
Stem Cells International  2016;2016:6213872.
Several studies support reciprocal regulation between the active vitamin D derivative 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25(OH)2D3) and the epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT). Thus, 1,25(OH)2D3 inhibits EMT via the induction of a variety of target genes that encode cell adhesion and polarity proteins responsible for the epithelial phenotype and through the repression of key EMT inducers. Both direct and indirect regulatory mechanisms mediate these effects. Conversely, certain master EMT inducers inhibit 1,25(OH)2D3 action by repressing the transcription of VDR gene encoding the high affinity vitamin D receptor that mediates 1,25(OH)2D3 effects. Consequently, the balance between the strength of 1,25(OH)2D3 signaling and the induction of EMT defines the cellular phenotype in each context. Here we review the current understanding of the genes and mechanisms involved in the interplay between 1,25(OH)2D3 and EMT.
PMCID: PMC4736588  PMID: 26880977
3.  Invasive cells follow Snail’s slow and persistent pace 
Cell Cycle  2014;13(15):2320-2321.
PMCID: PMC4128875  PMID: 25483180
EMT; GSK3β; Snail1; TGF-β; invasion; p38α
4.  Snail1 Expression Is Required for Sarcomagenesis12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2014;16(5):413-421.
Snail1 transcriptional repressor is a major inducer of epithelial-to mesenchymal transition but is very limitedly expressed in adult animals. We have previously demonstrated that Snail1 is required for the maintenance of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), preventing their premature differentiation. Now, we show that Snail1 controls the tumorigenic properties of mesenchymal cells. Increased Snail1 expression provides tumorigenic capabilities to fibroblastic cells; on the contrary, Snail1 depletion decreases tumor growth. Genetic depletion of Snail1 in MSCs that are deficient in p53 tumor suppressor downregulates MSC markers and prevents the capability of these cells to originate sarcomas in immunodeficient SCID mice. Notably, an analysis of human sarcomas shows that, contrarily to epithelial tumors, these neoplasms display high Snail1 expression. This is particularly clear for undifferentiated tumors, which are associated with poor outcome. Together, our results indicate a role for Snail1 in the generation of sarcomas.
PMCID: PMC4198692  PMID: 24947186
EMT, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition; MSC, mesenchymal stem cell; SMA, smooth muscle actin; PyrK, pyruvate kinase
5.  Epithelial to mesenchymal transition in tumor cells as consequence of phenotypic instability 
During the last years many articles have reported epithelial-to-mesenchymal transitions (EMT) induced by a myriad of gene products either when added to the cell medium or when transfected. Molecularly the EMT is characterized by the up-regulation of transcriptional factors (EMT-TFs) repressing the epithelial gene E-cadherin, a protein essential for the maintenance of the epithelial phenotype. These EMT-TFs are subjected to a complex regulation involving binary self-stimulatory loops, allowing the possibility of the amplification of input signals. The capability of EMT-TFs to promote an EMT is controlled by E-cadherin that limits the transcription of mesenchymal genes. We discuss here the differences between normal and tumor epithelial cells; in the latter a partial inactivation of E-cadherin function enables extracellular signals to be amplified and induce an EMT. This tumor cell phenotypic instability is exacerbated in cell culture conditions. Therefore, it is likely that many of the gene products reported to control this transition act only in very specific cell tumor cell lines; thus, in cells with an unstable phenotype due to pre-existing alterations in E-cadherin safeguard mechanism.
PMCID: PMC4264508  PMID: 25566541
EMT; Snail1; E-cadherin; self-amplification; tumor instability
6.  Nuclear ubiquitination by FBXL5 modulates Snail1 DNA binding and stability 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(2):1079-1094.
The zinc finger transcription factor Snail1 regulates epithelial to mesenchymal transition, repressing epithelial markers and activating mesenchymal genes. Snail1 is an extremely labile protein degraded by the cytoplasmic ubiquitin-ligases β-TrCP1/FBXW1 and Ppa/FBXL14. Using a short hairpin RNA screening, we have identified FBXL5 as a novel Snail1 ubiquitin ligase. FBXL5 is located in the nucleus where it interacts with Snail1 promoting its polyubiquitination and affecting Snail1 protein stability and function by impairing DNA binding. Snail1 downregulation by FBXL5 is prevented by Lats2, a protein kinase that phosphorylates Snail1 precluding its nuclear export but not its polyubiquitination. Actually, although polyubiquitination by FBXL5 takes place in the nucleus, Snail1 is degraded in the cytosol. Finally, FBXL5 is highly sensitive to stress conditions and is downregulated by iron depletion and γ-irradiation, explaining Snail1 stabilization in these conditions. These results characterize a novel nuclear ubiquitin ligase controlling Snail1 protein stability and provide the molecular basis for understanding how radiotherapy upregulates the epithelial to mesenchymal transition-inducer Snail1.
PMCID: PMC3902928  PMID: 24157836
7.  Epithelial-mesenchymal transition can suppress major attributes of human epithelial tumor-initiating cells 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(5):1849-1868.
Malignant progression in cancer requires populations of tumor-initiating cells (TICs) endowed with unlimited self renewal, survival under stress, and establishment of distant metastases. Additionally, the acquisition of invasive properties driven by epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is critical for the evolution of neoplastic cells into fully metastatic populations. Here, we characterize 2 human cellular models derived from prostate and bladder cancer cell lines to better understand the relationship between TIC and EMT programs in local invasiveness and distant metastasis. The model tumor subpopulations that expressed a strong epithelial gene program were enriched in highly metastatic TICs, while a second subpopulation with stable mesenchymal traits was impoverished in TICs. Constitutive overexpression of the transcription factor Snai1 in the epithelial/TIC-enriched populations engaged a mesenchymal gene program and suppressed their self renewal and metastatic phenotypes. Conversely, knockdown of EMT factors in the mesenchymal-like prostate cancer cell subpopulation caused a gain in epithelial features and properties of TICs. Both tumor cell subpopulations cooperated so that the nonmetastatic mesenchymal-like prostate cancer subpopulation enhanced the in vitro invasiveness of the metastatic epithelial subpopulation and, in vivo, promoted the escape of the latter from primary implantation sites and accelerated their metastatic colonization. Our models provide new insights into how dynamic interactions among epithelial, self-renewal, and mesenchymal gene programs determine the plasticity of epithelial TICs.
PMCID: PMC3366719  PMID: 22505459
8.  Novel Snail1 Target Proteins in Human Colon Cancer Identified by Proteomic Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10221.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC2857666  PMID: 20421926
9.  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
10.  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
11.  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
12.  Specific Phosphorylation of p120-Catenin Regulatory Domain Differently Modulates Its Binding to RhoA▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;27(5):1745-1757.
p120-catenin is an adherens junction-associated protein that controls E-cadherin function and stability. p120-catenin also binds intracellular proteins, such as the small GTPase RhoA. In this paper, we identify the p120-catenin N-terminal regulatory domain as the docking site for RhoA. Moreover, we demonstrate that the binding of RhoA to p120-catenin is tightly controlled by the Src family-dependent phosphorylation of p120-catenin on tyrosine residues. The phosphorylation induced by Src and Fyn tyrosine kinases on p120-catenin induces opposite effects on RhoA binding. Fyn, by phosphorylating a residue located in the regulatory domain of p120-catenin (Tyr112), inhibits the interaction of this protein with RhoA. By contrast, the phosphorylation of Tyr217 and Tyr228 by Src promotes a better affinity of p120-catenin towards RhoA. In agreement with these biochemical data, results obtained in cell lines support the important role of these phosphorylation sites in the regulation of RhoA activity by p120-catenin. Taken together, these observations uncover a new regulatory mechanism acting on p120-catenin that contributes to the fine-tuned regulation of the RhoA pathways during specific signaling events.
PMCID: PMC1820477  PMID: 17194753
13.  Tyrosine Phosphorylation of Plakoglobin Causes Contrary Effects on Its Association with Desmosomes and Adherens Junction Components and Modulates β-Catenin-Mediated Transcription 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(20):7391-7402.
Plakoglobin is a protein closely related to β-catenin that links desmosomal cadherins to intermediate filaments. Plakoglobin can also substitute for β-catenin in adherens junctions, providing a connection between E-cadherin and α-catenin. Association of β-catenin with E-cadherin and α-catenin is regulated by phosphorylation of specific tyrosine residues; modification of β-catenin Tyr654 and Tyr142 decreases binding to E-cadherin and α-catenin, respectively. We show here that plakoglobin can also be phosphorylated on tyrosine residues, but unlike β-catenin, this modification is not always associated with disrupted association with junctional components. Protein tyrosine kinases present distinct specificities on β-catenin and plakoglobin, and phosphorylation of β-catenin-equivalent Tyr residues of plakoglobin affects its interaction with components of desmosomes or adherens junctions differently. For instance, Src, which mainly phosphorylates Tyr86 in β-catenin, modifies Tyr643 in plakoglobin, decreasing the interaction with E-cadherin and α-catenin and increasing the interaction with the α-catenin-equivalent protein in desmosomes, desmoplakin. The tyrosine kinase Fer, which modifies β-catenin Tyr142, lessening its association with α-catenin, phosphorylates plakoglobin Tyr549 and exerts the contrary effect: it raises the binding of plakoglobin to α-catenin. These results suggest that tyrosine kinases like Src or Fer modulate desmosomes and adherens junctions differently. Our results also indicate that phosphorylation of Tyr549 and the increased binding of plakoglobin to components of adherens junctions can contribute to the upregulation of the transcriptional activity of the β-catenin-Tcf-4 complex observed in many epithelial tumor cells.
PMCID: PMC230329  PMID: 14517306
14.  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
15.  p120 Catenin-Associated Fer and Fyn Tyrosine Kinases Regulate β-Catenin Tyr-142 Phosphorylation and β-Catenin-α-Catenin Interaction 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(7):2287-2297.
β-Catenin has a key role in the formation of adherens junction through its interactions with E-cadherin and α-catenin. We show here that interaction of β-catenin with α-catenin is regulated by the phosphorylation of β-catenin Tyr-142. This residue can be phosphorylated in vitro by Fer or Fyn tyrosine kinases. Transfection of these kinases to epithelial cells disrupted the association between both catenins. We have also examined whether these kinases are involved in the regulation of this interaction by K-ras. Stable transfectants of the K-ras oncogene in intestinal epithelial IEC18 cells were generated which show little α-catenin-β-catenin association with respect to control clones; this effect is accompanied by increased Tyr-142 phosphorylation and activation of Fer and Fyn kinases. As reported for Fer, Fyn kinase is constitutively bound to p120 catenin; expression of K-ras induces the phosphorylation of p120 catenin on tyrosine residues increasing its affinity for E-cadherin and, consequently, promotes the association of Fyn with the adherens junction complex. Yes tyrosine kinase also binds to p120 catenin but only upon activation, and stimulates Fer and Fyn tyrosine kinases. These results indicate that p120 catenin acts as a docking protein facilitating the activation of Fer/Fyn tyrosine kinases by Yes and demonstrate the role of these p120 catenin-associated kinases in the regulation of β-catenin-α-catenin interaction.
PMCID: PMC150740  PMID: 12640114

Results 1-15 (15)