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1.  A Snail1/Notch1 Signaling Axis Controls Embryonic Vascular Development 
Nature communications  2014;5:3998.
Notch1-Delta-like 4 (Dll4) signaling controls vascular development by regulating endothelial cell (EC) targets that modulate vessel wall remodeling and arterial-venous specification. The molecular effectors that modulate Notch signaling during vascular development remain largely undefined. Here we demonstrate that the transcriptional repressor, Snail1, acts as a VEGF-induced regulator of Notch1 signaling and Dll4 expression. EC-specific Snail1 loss-of-function conditional knockout mice die in utero with defects in vessel wall remodeling in association with losses in mural cell investment and disruptions in arterial-venous specification. Snail1 loss-of-function conditional knockout embryos further display up-regulated Notch1 signaling and Dll4 expression that is partially reversed by inhibiting Ɣ-secretase activity in vivo with Dll4 identified as a direct target of Snail1-mediated transcriptional repression. These results document a Snail1-Dll4/Notch1 axis that controls embryonic vascular development.
PMCID: PMC4052376  PMID: 24894949
2.  MT1-MMP-Dependent Control of Skeletal Stem Cell Commitment via a β1-Integrin/YAP/TAZ Signaling Axis 
Developmental cell  2013;25(4):402-416.
In vitro, topographical and biophysical cues arising from the extracellular matrix (ECM) direct skeletal stem cell (SSC) commitment and differentiation. However, the mechanisms by which the SSC-ECM interface is regulated and the outcome of such interactions on stem cell fate in vivo remain unknown. Here we demonstrate that conditional deletion of the membrane-anchored metalloproteinase MT1-MMP (Mmp14) in mesenchymal progenitors, but not in committed osteoblasts, redirects SSC fate decisions from osteogenesis to adipo- and chondrogenesis. By effecting ECM remodeling, MT1-MMP regulates stem cell shape, thereby activating a β1-integrin/RhoGTPase signaling cascade and triggering the nuclear localization of the transcriptional coactivators YAP and TAZ, which serve to control SSC lineage commitment. These data identify a critical MT1-MMP/integrin/YAP/TAZ axis operative in the stem cell niche that oversees SSC fate determination.
PMCID: PMC3736823  PMID: 23685250
3.  Snail1 controls epithelial–mesenchymal lineage commitment in focal adhesion kinase–null embryonic cells 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2011;195(5):729-738.
FAK promotes the epithelial–mesenchymal transition in mouse embryonic cells by regulating the transcription factor Snail1.
Mouse embryonic cells isolated from focal adhesion kinase (FAK)–null animals at embryonic day 7.5 display multiple defects in focal adhesion remodeling, microtubule dynamics, mechanotransduction, proliferation, directional motility, and invasion. To date, the ability of FAK to modulate cell function has been ascribed largely to its control of posttranscriptional signaling cascades in this embryonic cell population. In this paper, we demonstrate that FAK unexpectedly exerts control over an epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) program that commits embryonic FAK-null cells to an epithelial status highlighted by the expression of E-cadherin, desmoplakin, and cytokeratins. FAK rescue reestablished the mesenchymal characteristics of FAK-null embryonic cells to generate committed mouse embryonic fibroblasts via an extracellular signal–related kinase– and Akt-dependent signaling cascade that triggered Snail1 gene expression and Snail1 protein stabilization. These findings indentify FAK as a novel regulator of Snail1-dependent EMT in embryonic cells and suggest that multiple defects in FAK−/− cell behavior can be attributed to an inappropriate commitment of these cells to an epithelial, rather than fibroblastic, phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3257570  PMID: 22105351
4.  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
5.  Hepatocyte-Derived Snail1 Propagates Liver Fibrosis Progression ▿ † 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2011;31(12):2392-2403.
Chronic exposure of the liver to hepatotoxic agents initiates an aberrant wound healing response marked by proinflammatory, as well as fibrotic, changes, leading to compromised organ structure and function. In a variety of pathological states, correlative links have been established between tissue fibrosis and the expression of transcription factors associated with the induction of epithelial-mesenchymal cell transition (EMT) programs similar to those engaged during development. However, the role played by endogenously derived, EMT-associated transcription factors in fibrotic states in vivo remains undefined. Using a mouse model of acute liver fibrosis, we demonstrate that hepatocytes upregulate the expression of the zinc finger transcriptional repressor, Snail1, during tissue remodeling. Hepatocyte-specific ablation of Snail1 demonstrates that this transcription factor plays a key role in liver fibrosis progression in vivo by triggering the proximal genetic programs that control multiple aspects of fibrogenesis, ranging from growth factor expression and extracellular matrix biosynthesis to the ensuing chronic inflammatory responses that characterize this class of pathological disorders.
PMCID: PMC3133420  PMID: 21482667
6.  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.
PMCID: PMC2646556  PMID: 19188491

Results 1-6 (6)