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EMBO J. 2011 May 24;30(13):2662-74. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2011.159.

Snail1, Snail2, and E47 promote mammary epithelial branching morphogenesis.

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  • 1Departments of Chemical & Biological Engineering and Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA.


Several E-box-binding transcription factors regulate individual and collective cell migration and enhance the motility of epithelial cells by promoting epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Here, we characterized the role of a subset of these transcription factors and the EMT proteome in branching morphogenesis of mammary epithelial tissues using a three-dimensional organotypic culture model of the mammary duct. We found that the transcription factors Snail1, Snail2, and E47 were transiently upregulated at branch sites; decreasing the expression of these transcription factors inhibited branching. Conversely, ectopic expression of Snail1, Snail2, and E47 induced branching in the absence of exogenous stimuli. These changes correlated with the expression of mesenchymal markers and repression of E-cadherin, which was essential for branching. Snail1 and Snail2 also promoted cell survival at branch sites, but this was not sufficient to induce branching. These findings indicate that Snail1, Snail2, and E47 can promote collective migration during branching morphogenesis of mammary epithelial tissues through key regulators of EMT.

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