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J Biol Chem. 2012 Sep 7;287(37):31393-405. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.357624. Epub 2012 Jul 9.

Zyxin is a transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β)/Smad3 target gene that regulates lung cancer cell motility via integrin α5β1.

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  • 1Comprehensive Pneumology Center, University Hospital, Ludwig-Maximilians University and Helmholtz Zentrum München, 81377 Munich, Germany.


Although TGF-β acts as a tumor suppressor in normal tissues and in early carcinogenesis, these tumor suppressor effects are lost in advanced malignancies. Single cell migration and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), both of which are regulated by TGF-β, are critical steps in mediating cancer progression. Here, we sought to identify novel direct targets of TGF-β signaling in lung cancer cells and have indentified the zyxin gene as a target of Smad3-mediated TGF-β1 signaling. Zyxin concentrates at focal adhesions and along the actin cytoskeleton; as such, we hypothesized that cytoskeletal organization, motility, and EMT in response to TGF-β1 might be regulated by zyxin expression. We show that TGF-β1 treatment of lung cancer cells caused rapid phospho-Smad3-dependent expression of zyxin. Zyxin expression was critical for the formation and integrity of cell adherens junctions. Silencing of zyxin decreased expression of the focal adhesion protein vasodilator-activated phospho-protein (VASP), although the formation and morphology of focal adhesions remained unchanged. Zyxin-depleted cells displayed significantly increased integrin α5β1 levels, accompanied by enhanced adhesion to fibronectin and acquisition of a mesenchymal phenotype in response to TGF-β1. Zyxin silencing led to elevated integrin α5β1-dependent single cell motility. Importantly, these features are mirrored in the K-ras-driven mouse model of lung cancer. Here, lung tumors revealed decreased levels of both zyxin and phospho-Smad3 when compared with normal tissues. Our data thus demonstrate that zyxin is a novel functional target and effector of TGF-β signaling in lung cancer. By regulating cell-cell junctions, integrin α5β1 expression, and cell-extracellular matrix adhesion, zyxin may regulate cancer cell motility and EMT during lung cancer development and progression.

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