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1.  A SNAIL1-SMAD3/4 transcriptional repressor complex promotes TGF-β mediated epithelial-mesenchymal transition 
Nature cell biology  2009;11(8):943-950.
Epithelial-mesenchymal transitions (EMT) are essential for organogenesis and triggered in carcinoma progression into an invasive state1. Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) cooperates with signalling pathways, such as Ras and Wnt, to induce EMT2-5, but the molecular mechanisms are not clear. Here, we report that SMAD3 and SMAD4 interact and form a complex with SNAIL1, a transcriptional repressor and promoter of EMT6, 7. The SNAIL1-SMAD3/4 complex was targeted to the gene promoters of CAR, a tight junction protein, and E-cadherin during TGF-β-driven EMT in breast epithelial cells. SNAIL1 and SMAD3/4 acted as co-repressors of CAR, occludin, claudin-3 and E-cadherin promoters in transfected cells. Conversely, co-silencing of SNAIL1 and SMAD4 by siRNA inhibited the repression of CAR and occludin during EMT. Moreover, loss of CAR and E-cadherin correlated with nuclear co-expression of SNAIL1 and SMAD3/4 in a mouse model of breast carcinoma and at the invasive fronts of human breast cancer. We propose that activation of a SNAIL1-SMAD3/4 transcriptional complex represents a novel mechanism of gene repression during EMT.
doi:10.1038/ncb1905
PMCID: PMC3769970  PMID: 19597490
2.  Nuclear Snail1 and nuclear ZEB1 protein expression in invasive and intraductal human breast carcinomas 
Human Pathology  2011;42(8):1125-1131.
Summary
Snail1 and ZEB1 are transcriptional repressors that drive tumor initiation and metastasis in animal models. Snail1 and ZEB1 are frequently coexpressed in tumor cell lines, suggesting that these factors may cooperate to promote tumor progression. However, coexpression of these transcriptional repressors in primary human cancer specimens has not been investigated. Previous studies assessed expression in primary breast cancers of Snail1 messenger RNA, which does not reflect Snail1 activity because Snail1 is subject to posttranslational modifications that inhibit its nuclear localization/activity. In the current study, using breast tumor cell lines of known Snail1 and ZEB1 expression status, we developed immunohistochemistry protocols for detecting nuclear Snail1 and nuclear ZEB1 proteins. Using these protocols, we assessed nuclear Snail1 and nuclear ZEB1 expressions in primary human breast cancers of varying subtypes (n = 78). Nuclear Snail1 and estrogen receptor α expression were inversely associated in primary breast cancers, and nuclear Snail1 was expressed in approximately 80% of triple-negative breast cancers (lacking estrogen receptor α, progesterone receptor, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 overexpression). In contrast, nuclear ZEB1 was expressed at a significantly lower frequency in these breast cancers. Notably, nuclear Snail1 protein was detected in 45% of ductal carcinoma in situ specimens (n = 29), raising the important possibility that nuclear Snail1 expression in early stage breast lesions may predict future development of invasive breast cancer. Collectively, our studies demonstrate frequent expression of nuclear Snail1, but not nuclear ZEB1, in invasive, triple-negative breast cancers as well as in intraductal carcinomas.
doi:10.1016/j.humpath.2010.11.004
PMCID: PMC3315281  PMID: 21315410
Snail1; ZEB1; Breast cancer; Estrogen receptor; Ductal carcinoma in situ
4.  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.
doi:10.1083/jcb.200810113
PMCID: PMC2646556  PMID: 19188491
5.  FGFR4 Role in Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition and Its Therapeutic Value in Colorectal Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63695.
Fibroblast growth factor receptor 4 (FGFR4) is vital in early development and tissue repair. FGFR4 expression levels are very restricted in adult tissues, except in several solid tumors including colorectal cancer, which showed overexpression of FGFR4. Here, FGFR4 mutation analysis discarded the presence of activating mutations, other than Arg388, in different colorectal cancer cell lines and tumoral samples. Stable shRNA FGFR4-silencing in SW480 and SW48 cell lines resulted in a significant decrease in cell proliferation, adhesion, cell migration and invasion. This decrease in the tumorigenic and invasive capabilities of colorectal cancer cells was accompanied by a decrease of Snail, Twist and TGFβ gene expression levels and an increase of E-cadherin, causing a reversion to a more epithelial phenotype, in three different cell lines. In addition, FGFR4-signaling activated the oncogenic SRC, ERK1/2 and AKT pathways in colon cancer cells and promoted an increase in cell survival. The relevance of FGFR4 in tumor growth was supported by two different strategies. Kinase inhibitors abrogated FGFR4-related cell growth and signaling pathways at the same extent than FGFR4-silenced cells. Specific FGFR4-targeting using antibodies provoked a similar reduction in cell growth. Moreover, FGFR4 knock-down cells displayed a reduced capacity for in vivo tumor formation and angiogenesis in nude mice. Collectively, our data support a crucial role for FGFR4 in tumorigenesis, invasion and survival in colorectal cancer. In addition, FGFR4 targeting demonstrated its applicability for colorectal cancer therapy.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063695
PMCID: PMC3655941  PMID: 23696849

Results 1-5 (5)