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Oral Oncol. 2013 Nov;49(11):1043-50. doi: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2013.08.003. Epub 2013 Sep 13.

Slug is a key mediator of hypoxia induced cadherin switch in HNSCC: correlations with poor prognosis.

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  • 1Key Lab for Oral Biomedical Engineering of Ministry of Education, School and Hospital of Stomatology, Wuhan University, Wuhan, China; Oral Histopathology Department, School and Hospital of Stomatology, Wuhan University, Wuhan, China. Electronic address:



According to recent studies, the function of Slug in hypoxia induced cadherin switch differs from cancer to cancer. Whether Slug is an essential mediator of the tumor hypoxia induced cadherin switch in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and the prognostic role of Slug in HNSCC patients are not elucidated. The aim of this study is to investigate the role of the Slug in cadherin switch induced by hypoxia in HNSCC.


Two HNSCC cell lines and 119 HNSCC specimens were selected for the present experiments. E/N-cadherins expression and tumor cell invasion responding to hypoxia/HIF-1α overexpression and the silence of Slug/SnaI2 gene were detected in vitro. HNSCC specimens were analyzed by immunohistochemistry staining to correlate the expressions of Slug, HIF-1α and E/N-cadherins with clinical outcomes.


Our research evidenced that Slug was extremely elevated in the HNSCC cells in response to hypoxia/HIF-1α overexpression. Suppressing Slug expression impaired HIF-1α induced cadherin switch and tumor invasion. In HNSCC tissues, relatively high expression of Slug was detected to be associated with endogenous HIF-1α overexpression, cadherin switch, the risk of lymph node metastasis, and a more advanced TNM stage. Additionally, aberrant Slug expression combined with HIF-1α overexpression and cadherin switch was significantly correlated with shorter HNSCC patient survival. In conclusion, Slug is necessary for hypoxia-induced cadherin switch in HNSCC and may be used as a potential risk marker in predicting HNSCC clinical outcomes.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Cadherin switch; HIF-1α; Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma; Slug

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