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1.  Wilms' Tumor Protein Induces an Epithelial-Mesenchymal Hybrid Differentiation State in Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102041.
The Wilms' tumor transcription factor (WT1) was originally classified as a tumor suppressor, but it is now known to also be associated with cancer progression and poor prognosis in several malignancies. WT1 plays an essential role in orchestrating a developmental process known as mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition (MET) during kidney development, but also induces the reverse process, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) during heart development. WT1 is not expressed in the adult kidney, but shows elevated expression in clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC). However, the role of WT1 in this disease has not been characterized. In this study, we demonstrate that WT1 is upregulated in ccRCC cells that are deficient in the expression of the von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein (VHL). We found that WT1 transcriptionally activated Snail, a master transcriptional repressor that is known to induce EMT. Although Snail represses E-cadherin and induces mesenchymal characteristics, we found partial maintenance of E-cadherin and associated epithelial characteristics in kidney cells and ccRCC cells that express WT1, since WT1 upregulates E-cadherin expression and competes with Snail repression. These findings support a novel paradigm in which WT1 induces an epithelial-mesenchymal hybrid transition (EMHT), characterized by Snail up-regulation with E-cadherin maintenance, a tumor cell differentiation state in which cancer cells keep both EMT and MET characteristics which may promote tumor cell plasticity and tumor progression.
PMCID: PMC4099076  PMID: 25025131
2.  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
3.  PARP-1 Regulates Metastatic Melanoma through Modulation of Vimentin-induced Malignant Transformation 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(6):e1003531.
PARP inhibition can induce anti-neoplastic effects when used as monotherapy or in combination with chemo- or radiotherapy in various tumor settings; however, the basis for the anti-metastasic activities resulting from PARP inhibition remains unknown. PARP inhibitors may also act as modulators of tumor angiogenesis. Proteomic analysis of endothelial cells revealed that vimentin, an intermediary filament involved in angiogenesis and a specific hallmark of EndoMT (endothelial to mesenchymal transition) transformation, was down-regulated following loss of PARP-1 function in endothelial cells. VE-cadherin, an endothelial marker of vascular normalization, was up-regulated in HUVEC treated with PARP inhibitors or following PARP-1 silencing; vimentin over-expression was sufficient to drive to an EndoMT phenotype. In melanoma cells, PARP inhibition reduced pro-metastatic markers, including vasculogenic mimicry. We also demonstrated that vimentin expression was sufficient to induce increased mesenchymal/pro-metastasic phenotypic changes in melanoma cells, including ILK/GSK3-β-dependent E-cadherin down-regulation, Snail1 activation and increased cell motility and migration. In a murine model of metastatic melanoma, PARP inhibition counteracted the ability of melanoma cells to metastasize to the lung. These results suggest that inhibition of PARP interferes with key metastasis-promoting processes, leading to suppression of invasion and colonization of distal organs by aggressive metastatic cells.
Author Summary
Metastasis is the spread of malignant tumor cells from their original site to other parts of the body and is responsible for the vast majority of solid cancer-related mortality. PARP inhibitors are emerging as promising anticancer therapeutics and are currently undergoing clinical trials. It is therefore important to elucidate the mechanisms underlying the anti-tumor actions of these drugs. In our current study, we elucidated novel anti-neoplastic properties of PARP inhibitors that are responsible for the anti-metastatic effect of these drugs in the context of malignant melanoma. These effects appear to be the result of PARP-1's ability to regulate the expression of key factors, such as vimentin and VE-cadherin, involved in vascular cell dynamics and to limit pro-malignant processes such as vasculogenic mimicry and EMT.
PMCID: PMC3681683  PMID: 23785295
4.  Coordinated Action of CK1 Isoforms in Canonical Wnt Signaling▿ 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2011;31(14):2877-2888.
Activation of the Wnt pathway promotes the progressive phosphorylation of coreceptor LRP5/6 (low-density lipoprotein receptor-related proteins 5 and 6), creating a phosphorylated motif that inhibits glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK-3β), which in turn stabilizes β-catenin, increasing the transcription of β-catenin target genes. Casein kinase 1 (CK1) kinase family members play a complex role in this pathway, either as inhibitors or as activators. In this report, we have dissected the roles of CK1 isoforms in the early steps of Wnt signaling. CK1ε is constitutively bound to LRP5/6 through its interaction with p120-catenin and E-cadherin or N-cadherin and is activated upon Wnt3a stimulation. CK1α also associates with the LRP5/6/p120-catenin complex but, differently from CK1ε, only after Wnt3a addition. Binding of CK1α is dependent on CK1ε and occurs in a complex with axin. The two protein kinases function sequentially: whereas CK1ε is required for early responses to Wnt3a stimulation, such as recruitment of Dishevelled 2 (Dvl-2), CK1α participates in the release of p120-catenin from the complex, which activates p120-catenin for further actions on this pathway. Another CK1, CK1γ, acts at an intermediate level, since it is not necessary for Dvl-2 recruitment but for LRP5/6 phosphorylation at Thr1479 and axin binding. Therefore, our results indicate that CK1 isoforms work coordinately to promote the full response to Wnt stimulus.
PMCID: PMC3133391  PMID: 21606194
5.  Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor-A stimulates Snail expression in breast tumor cells: Implications for tumor progression 
Experimental cell research  2008;314(13):2448-2453.
The E-cadherin transcriptional repressor Snail is a prognostic marker for metastatic breast carcinoma, as well as a critical determinant of tumor growth and recurrence. We define a non-angiogenic, autocrine function for the vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A) in regulating Snail expression in breast tumor cells. The transfection of well-differentiated breast tumor cells with VEGF-A increases Snail mRNA and protein levels, resulting in reduced E-cadherin expression. Conversely, reducing endogenous VEGF-A expression in poorly-differentiated breast tumor cells by siRNA transfection decreases Snail levels. Our studies demonstrate that VEGF and the VEGF receptor Neuropilin-1 increase Snail expression by suppressing the Glycogen Synthase Kinase-3 (GSK-3), an established inhibitor of Snail transcription and protein stability. The VEGF-A neutralizing antibody Avastin® was recently approved by the FDA for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. We present the provocative finding that beyond its anti-angiogenic activity, Avastin® can reduce Snail expression in breast tumor cells. Collectively, this work describes a novel autocrine function for VEGF in breast tumor cells in driving the expression of Snail, a breast tumor progression factor. Based on our demonstration that Avastin® reduces Snail expression in breast tumor cells, we propose that the treatment of early stage breast cancer patients with Avastin® may impede tumor progression.
PMCID: PMC2762866  PMID: 18554584
VEGF; autocrine; Neuropilin; Snail; Avastin
6.  RhoA–ROCK and p38MAPK-MSK1 mediate vitamin D effects on gene expression, phenotype, and Wnt pathway in colon cancer cells 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2008;183(4):697-710.
The active vitamin D metabolite 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25(OH)2D3) inhibits proliferation and promotes differentiation of colon cancer cells through the activation of vitamin D receptor (VDR), a transcription factor of the nuclear receptor superfamily. Additionally, 1,25(OH)2D3 has several nongenomic effects of uncertain relevance. We show that 1,25(OH)2D3 induces a transcription-independent Ca2+ influx and activation of RhoA–Rho-associated coiled kinase (ROCK). This requires VDR and is followed by activation of the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38MAPK) and mitogen- and stress-activated kinase 1 (MSK1). As shown by the use of chemical inhibitors, dominant-negative mutants and small interfering RNA, RhoA–ROCK, and p38MAPK-MSK1 activation is necessary for the induction of CDH1/E-cadherin, CYP24, and other genes and of an adhesive phenotype by 1,25(OH)2D3. RhoA–ROCK and MSK1 are also required for the inhibition of Wnt–β-catenin pathway and cell proliferation. Thus, the action of 1,25(OH)2D3 on colon carcinoma cells depends on the dual action of VDR as a transcription factor and a nongenomic activator of RhoA–ROCK and p38MAPK-MSK1.
PMCID: PMC2582889  PMID: 19015318
7.  Gamma-Secretase-Dependent and -Independent Effects of Presenilin1 on β-Catenin·Tcf-4 Transcriptional Activity 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(12):e4080.
Presenilin1 (PS1) is a component of the γ-secretase complex mutated in cases of Familial Alzheimer's disease (FAD). PS1 is synthesized as a 50 kDa peptide subsequently processed to two 29 and 20 kDa subunits that remain associated. Processing of PS1 is inhibited by several mutations detected in FAD patients. PS1 acts as negative modulator of β-catenin·Tcf-4 transcriptional activity. In this article we show that in murine embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) the mechanisms of action of the processed and non-processed forms of PS1 on β-catenin·Tcf-4 transcription are different. Whereas non-processed PS1 inhibits β-catenin·Tcf-4 activity through a mechanism independent of γ-secretase and associated with the interaction of this protein with plakoglobin and Tcf-4, the effect of processed PS1 is prevented by γ-secretase inhibitors, and requires its interaction with E- or N-cadherin and the generation of cytosolic terminal fragments of these two cadherins, which in turn destabilize the β-catenin transcriptional cofactor CBP. Accordingly, the two forms of PS1 interact differently with E-cadherin or β-catenin and plakoglobin: whereas processed PS1 binds E-cadherin with high affinity and β-catenin or plakoglobin weakly, the non-processed form behaves inversely. Moreover, contrarily to processed PS1, that decreases the levels of c-fos RNA, non-processed PS1 inhibits the expression c-myc, a known target of β-catenin·Tcf-4, and does not block the activity of other transcriptional factors requiring CBP. These results indicate that prevention of PS1 processing in FAD affects the mechanism of repression of the transcriptional activity dependent on β-catenin.
PMCID: PMC2603589  PMID: 19114997
8.  Snail1 transcriptional repressor binds to its own promoter and controls its expression 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(7):2077-2084.
The product of Snail1 gene is a transcriptional repressor of E-cadherin expression and an inductor of the epithelial–mesenchymal transition in several epithelial tumour cell lines. Transcription of Snail1 is induced when epithelial cells are forced to acquire a mesenchymal phenotype. In this work we demonstrate that Snail1 protein limits its own expression: Snail1 binds to an E-box present in its promoter (at −146 with respect to the transcription start) and represses its activity. Therefore, mutation of the E-box increases Snail1 transcription in epithelial and mesenchymal cells. Evidence of binding of ectopic or endogenous Snail1 to its own promoter was obtained by chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) experiments. Studies performed expressing different forms of Snail1 under the control of its own promoter demonstrate that disruption of the regulatory loop increases the cellular levels of Snail protein. These results indicate that expression of Snail1 gene can be regulated by its product and evidence the existence of a fine-tuning feed-back mechanism of regulation of Snail1 transcription.
PMCID: PMC1440880  PMID: 16617148
9.  Glycogen synthase kinase-3 is an endogenous inhibitor of Snail transcription 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2005;168(1):29-33.
We report that the activity of glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) is necessary for the maintenance of the epithelial architecture. Pharmacological inhibition of its activity or reducing its expression using small interfering RNAs in normal breast and skin epithelial cells results in a reduction of E-cadherin expression and a more mesenchymal morphology, both of which are features associated with an epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT). Importantly, GSK-3 inhibition also stimulates the transcription of Snail, a repressor of E-cadherin and an inducer of the EMT. We identify NFκB as a transcription factor inhibited by GSK-3 in epithelial cells that is relevant for Snail expression. These findings indicate that epithelial cells must sustain activation of a specific kinase to impede a mesenchymal transition.
PMCID: PMC2171685  PMID: 15631989
10.  Vitamin D3 promotes the differentiation of colon carcinoma cells by the induction of E-cadherin and the inhibition of β-catenin signaling 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2001;154(2):369-388.
The β-catenin signaling pathway is deregulated in nearly all colon cancers. Nonhypercalcemic vitamin D3 (1α,25-dehydroxyvitamin D3) analogues are candidate drugs to treat this neoplasia. We show that these compounds promote the differentiation of human colon carcinoma SW480 cells expressing vitamin D receptors (VDRs) (SW480-ADH) but not that of a malignant subline (SW480-R) or metastasic derivative (SW620) cells lacking VDR. 1α,25(OH)2D3 induced the expression of E-cadherin and other adhesion proteins (occludin, Zonula occludens [ZO]-1, ZO-2, vinculin) and promoted the translocation of β-catenin, plakoglobin, and ZO-1 from the nucleus to the plasma membrane. Ligand-activated VDR competed with T cell transcription factor (TCF)-4 for β-catenin binding. Accordingly, 1α,25(OH)2D3 repressed β-catenin–TCF-4 transcriptional activity. Moreover, VDR activity was enhanced by ectopic β-catenin and reduced by TCF-4. Also, 1α,25(OH)2D3 inhibited expression of β-catenin–TCF-4-responsive genes, c-myc, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor δ, Tcf-1, and CD44, whereas it induced expression of ZO-1. Our results show that 1α,25(OH)2D3 induces E-cadherin and modulates β-catenin–TCF-4 target genes in a manner opposite to that of β-catenin, promoting the differentiation of colon carcinoma cells.
PMCID: PMC2150773  PMID: 11470825
vitamin D; vitamin D receptor; β-catenin; E-cadherin; colon cancer

Results 1-10 (10)