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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Feb 9;107(6):2628-33. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0903747107. Epub 2010 Jan 25.

Symplekin promotes tumorigenicity by up-regulating claudin-2 expression.

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  • 1Institut de Génomique Fonctionnelle, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Unité Mixte de Recherche 5203, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale U661, and Université Montpellier 1 and 2, Montpellier F-34094, France.


Symplekin is a ubiquitously expressed protein involved in cytoplasmic RNA polyadenylation and transcriptional regulation and is localized at tight junctions (TJs) in epithelial cells. Nuclear symplekin cooperates with the Y-box transcription factor zonula occludens 1-associated nucleic acid-binding protein (ZONAB) to increase the transcription of cell cycle-related genes and also inhibits differentiation of intestinal cells. We detected high levels of nuclear symplekin in 8 of 12 human colorectal cancer (CRC) samples. shRNA-mediated reduction of symplekin expression was sufficient to decrease significantly the anchorage-independent growth and proliferation of HT-29 CRC cells as well as their tumorigenicity when injected into immunodeficient animals. Symplekin down-regulation also was found to alter ion transport through TJs, to promote the localization of ZONAB in the membrane rather than the nucleus, and strongly to enhance cell polarization in a 3D matrix, leading to the formation of spheroids organized around a central lumen. Claudin-2 expression was reduced following symplekin down-regulation, an effect mimicked when ZONAB expression was down-regulated using selective siRNA. Virus-mediated restoration of claudin-2 expression was found to restore nuclear expression of ZONAB in HT29DeltaSym cells and to rescue the phenotypic alterations induced by symplekin down-regulation of cell polarity, paracellular transport, ZONAB localization, cyclin D1 expression, proliferation, and anchorage-independent growth. Finally, siRNA-mediated claudin-2 down-regulation increased the transepithelial resistance and decreased cyclin D1 expression and ZONAB nuclear localization, similar to observations in symplekin-depleted cells. Our results suggest that nuclear overexpression of symplekin promotes tumorigenesis in the human colon and that the regulation of claudin-2 expression is instrumental in this effect.

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