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1.  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
2.  Hypoxia activates the cyclooxygenase-2–prostaglandin E synthase axis 
Carcinogenesis  2009;31(3):427-434.
Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs), in particular HIF-1α, have been implicated in tumor biology. However, HIF target genes in the esophageal tumor microenvironment remain elusive. Gene expression profiling was performed upon hypoxia-exposed non-transformed immortalized human esophageal epithelial cells, EPC2-hTERT, and comparing with a gene signature of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). In addition to known HIF-1α target genes such as carbonic anhydrase 9, insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3 (IGFBP3) and cyclooxygenase (COX)-2, prostaglandin E synthase (PTGES) was identified as a novel target gene among the commonly upregulated genes in ESCC as well as the cells exposed to hypoxia. The PTGES induction was augmented upon stabilization of HIF-1α by hypoxia or cobalt chloride under normoxic conditions and suppressed by dominant-negative HIF-1α. Whereas PTGES messenger RNA (mRNA) was negatively regulated by normoxia, PTGES protein remained stable upon reoxygenation. Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) biosynthesis was documented in transformed human esophageal cells by ectopic expression of PTGES as well as RNA interference directed against PTGES. Moreover, hypoxia stimulated PGE2 production in a HIF-1α-dependent manner. In ESCC, PTGES was overexpressed frequently at the mRNA and protein levels. Finally, COX-2 and PTGES were colocalized in primary tumors along with HIF-1α and IGFBP3. Activation of the COX-2–PTGES axis in primary tumors was further corroborated by concomitant upregulation of interleukin-1β and downregulation of hydroxylprostaglandin dehydrogenase. Thus, PTGES is a novel HIF-1α target gene, involved in prostaglandin E biosynthesis in the esophageal tumor hypoxic microenvironment, and this has implications in diverse tumors types, especially of squamous origin.
doi:10.1093/carcin/bgp326
PMCID: PMC2832548  PMID: 20042640

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