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Cell Growth Differ. 1997 Jun;8(6):655-65.

The ETS1 transcription factor is expressed during epithelial-mesenchymal transitions in the chick embryo and is activated in scatter factor-stimulated MDCK epithelial cells.

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  • 1Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Institut Pasteur de Lille, France.


In embryos and in human tumors, the expression of the ETS1 transcription factor correlates with the occurrence of invasive processes. Although this was demonstrated in cells of mesodermal origin, the expression of ETS1 was not detected in epithelial cells. In the present study, we show that during early organogenesis in the chick embryo, ETS1 mRNA expression was transiently induced in epithelial structures, during emigration of neural crest cells and dispersion of somites into the mesenchymal sclerotome. In contrast, the expression of ETS1 was not detected in situations where epithelial layers stayed cohesive while forming a new structure, such as the dermomyotome forming the myotome. The involvement of ETS1 in epithelial cell dissociation was examined in MDCK epithelial cells stimulated by scatter factor/hepatocyte growth factor (SF/HGF), a potent inducer of cell dissociation and motility. SF/HGF was found to stimulate ETS1 mRNA and protein expressions, and these increases coincided with the dispersion of cells and the expression of protease mRNAs, such as urokinase-type plasminogen activator and collagenase, but not with the protease inhibitor, plasminogen activator inhibitor type 1. Furthermore, we showed that SF/HGF was able to induce a transcriptional response involving ETS1 by using artificial as well as cellular promoters, such as the urokinase-type plasminogen activator and collagenase 1 promoters, containing RAS-responsive elements with essential ETS-binding sites. These data demonstrate expression of ETS1 during epithelial-mesenchymal transitions in the developing embryo and show that ETS1 can act as a downstream effector of SF/HGF in MDCK epithelial cells. Taken together, these data identify ETS1 as a molecular actor of epithelia cell dissociation.

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