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J Biol Chem. 2001 Jul 6;276(27):24661-6. Epub 2001 Apr 25.

Loss of E-cadherin expression in melanoma cells involves up-regulation of the transcriptional repressor Snail.

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Institute of Pathology, Medical School Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) Aachen, D-52074 Aachen, Germany.


Malignant transformation of melanocytes frequently coincides with loss of E-cadherin expression. Here we show that loss of E-cadherin in melanoma cell lines does not involve mutations in the E-cadherin gene, promoter methylation, or alterations in expression of AP-2 transcription factors as suggested previously. In a panel of different melanoma cell lines, E-cadherin expression was negatively regulated by up-regulation of the transcription factor Snail. In comparison with primary human melanocytes, where Snail expression was not detected by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, significant expression was found in all eight melanoma cell lines. In parallel, Western blot and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction analysis revealed strong reduction of E-cadherin expression in the melanoma cells. Consistently, transient transfection of a Snail expression plasmid into human primary melanocytes led to significant down-regulation of E-cadherin, whereas transient and stable transfection of an antisense Snail construct induced reexpression of E-cadherin in Mel Ju and Mel Im melanomas. In summary, we conclude that activation of Snail expression plays an important role in down-regulation of E-cadherin and tumorigenesis of malignant melanomas.

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