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1.  A NOTCH3-mediated squamous cell differentiation program limits expansion of EMT competent cells that express the ZEB transcription factors 
Cancer research  2011;71(21):6836-6847.
Zinc finger E-box binding (ZEB) proteins ZEB1 and ZEB2 are transcription factors essential in transforming growth factor (TGF)-β-mediated senescence, epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and cancer stem cell function. ZEBs are negatively regulated by members of the miR-200 microRNA family, but precisely how tumor cells expressing ZEBs emerge during invasive growth remains unknown. Here we report that NOTCH3-mediated signaling prevents expansion of a unique subset of ZEB-expressing cells. ZEB expression was associated with the lack of cellular capability of undergoing NOTCH3-mediated squamous differentiation in human esophageal cells. Genetic inhibition of the Notch-mediated transcriptional activity by dominant-negative Mastermind-like1 (DNMAML1) prevented squamous differentiation and induction of Notch target genes including NOTCH3. Moreover, DNMAML1 enriched EMT competent cells exhibited robust upregulation of ZEBs, downregulation of the miR-200 family, and enhanced anchorage independent growth and tumor formation in nude mice. RNA interference (RNAi) experiments suggested the involvement of ZEBs in anchorage independent colony formation, invasion and TGF-β-mediated EMT. Invasive growth and impaired squamous differentiation was recapitulated upon Notch inhibition by DNMAML1 in organotypic 3D culture, a form of human tissue engineering. Together, our findings indicate that NOTCH3 is a key factor limiting the expansion of ZEB-expressing cells, providing novel mechanistic insights into the role of Notch signaling in the cell fate regulation and disease progression of squamous esophageal cancers.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-0846
PMCID: PMC3206139  PMID: 21890822
Notch; EMT; squamous cell differentiation; ZEB1; miR-200
2.  NOTCH1 and NOTCH3 coordinate esophageal squamous differentiation through a CSL-dependent transcriptional network 
Gastroenterology  2010;139(6):2113-2123.
Background & Aims
The Notch receptor family regulates cell fate through cell-cell communication. CSL (CBF-1/RBP-jκ, Su(H), Lag-1) drives canonical Notch-mediated gene transcription during cell lineage specification, differentiation and proliferation in the hematopoietic system, the intestine, the pancreas and the skin. However, the functional roles of Notch in esophageal squamous epithelial biology remain unknown.
Methods
Normal esophageal keratinocytes were stimulated with calcium chloride to induce terminal differentiation. The squamous epithelia were reconstituted in organotypic three-dimensional culture, a form of human tissue engineering. Notch was inhibited in culture with a γ-secretase inhibitor or dominant negative mastermind-like1 (DNMAML1). The roles of Notch receptors were evaluated by in vitro gain-of-function and loss-of-function experiments. Additionally, DNMAML1 was targeted to the mouse esophagus by cytokeratin K14 promoter-driven Cre (K14Cre) recombination of Lox-STOP-Lox-DNMAML1. Notch-regulated gene expression was determined by reporter transfection, chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays, quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reactions (RT-PCR), Western blotting, immunofluorescence and immunohistochemistry.
Results
NOTCH1 (N1) was activated at the onset of squamous differentiation in the esophagus. Intracellular domain of N1 (ICN1) directly activated NOTCH3 (N3) transcription, inducing HES5 and early differentiation markers such as involucrin (IVL) and cytokeratin CK13 in a CSL-dependent fashion. N3 enhanced ICN1 activity and was required for squamous differentiation. Loss of Notch signaling in K14Cre;DNMAML1 mice perturbed esophageal squamous differentiation and resulted in N3 loss and basal cell hyperplasia.
Conclusions
Notch signaling is important for esophageal epithelial homeostasis. In particular, the crosstalk of N3 with N1 during differentiation provides novel, mechanistic insights into Notch signaling and squamous epithelial biology.
doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2010.08.040
PMCID: PMC2997138  PMID: 20801121
NOTCH1; NOTCH3; esophageal epithelium; squamous differentiation
3.  Insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-3 promotes transforming growth factor-β1-mediated epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and motility in transformed human esophageal cells 
Carcinogenesis  2010;31(8):1344-1353.
Insulin-like growth factor-binding protein (IGFBP)-3 is overexpressed frequently in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. Yet, the role of IGFBP3 in esophageal tumor biology remains to be elucidated. We find that IGFBP3 facilitates transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1-mediated epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in transformed human esophageal epithelial cells, EPC2–hTERT–EGFR–p53R175H. In organotypic 3D culture, a form of human tissue engineering, laser-capture microdissection revealed concurrent upregulation of TGF-β target genes, IGFBP3 and EMT-related genes in the cells invading into the stromal compartment. IGFBP3 enhanced TGF-β1-mediated EMT as well as transcription factors essential in EMT by allowing persistent SMAD2 and SMAD3 phosphorylation. TGF-β1-mediated EMT and cell invasion were enhanced by ectopically expressed IGFBP3 and suppressed by RNA interference directed against IGFBP3. The IGFBP3 knockdown effect was rescued by IGFBP3I56G/L80G/L81G, a mutant IGFBP3 lacking an insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-binding capacity. Thus, IGFBP3 can regulate TGF-β1-mediated EMT and cell invasion in an IGF or insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor-independent manner. IGFBP3I56G/L80G/L81G also promoted EMT in vivo in a Ras-transformed human esophageal cell line T-TeRas upon xenograft transplantation in nude mice. In aggregate, IGFBP3 may have a novel IGF-binding independent biological function in regulation of TGF-β1-mediated EMT and cell invasion.
doi:10.1093/carcin/bgq108
PMCID: PMC2915630  PMID: 20513670
4.  EGFR and mutant p53 expand esophageal cellular subpopulation capable of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition through ZEB transcription factors 
Cancer research  2010;70(10):4174-4184.
Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β is a potent inducer of epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT). However, it remains elusive as to which molecular mechanisms determine the cellular capacity to undergo EMT in response to TGF-β. We have found that both epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) overexpression and mutant p53 tumor suppressor genes contribute to enrichment of an EMT-competent cellular subpopulation amongst telomerase-immortalized human esophageal epithelial cells during malignant transformation. EGFR overexpression triggers oncogene-induced senescence, accompanied by induction of cyclin dependent kinase inhibitors p15INK4B, p16INK4A and p21. Interestingly, a subpopulation of cells emerges by negating senescence without loss of EGFR overexpression. Such cell populations express increased levels of zinc finger E-box binding (ZEB) transcription factors ZEB1 and ZEB2, and undergo EMT upon TGF-β stimulation. Enrichment of EMT-competent cells was more evident in the presence of p53 mutation, which diminished EGFR-induced senescence. RNA interference directed against ZEB resulted in induction of p15INK4B and p16INK4A, reactivating the EGFR-dependent senescence program. Importantly, TGF-β-mediated EMT did not take place when cellular senescence programs were activated by either ZEB knockdown or activation of wild-type p53 function. Thus, senescence checkpoint functions activated by EGFR and p53 may be evaded through the induction of ZEB, thereby allowing expansion of an EMT-competent unique cellular subpopulation, providing novel mechanistic insights into the role of ZEB in esophageal carcinogenesis.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-09-4614
PMCID: PMC3007622  PMID: 20424117
EGFR; EMT; senescence; ZEB1; ZEB2

Results 1-4 (4)