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J Cell Biol. 2003 Nov 24;163(4):847-57. Epub 2003 Nov 17.

Autoregulation of E-cadherin expression by cadherin-cadherin interactions: the roles of beta-catenin signaling, Slug, and MAPK.

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Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.


Transcriptional repression of E-cadherin, characteristic of epithelial to mesenchymal transition, is often found also during tumor cell invasion. At metastases, migratory fibroblasts sometimes revert to an epithelial phenotype, by a process involving regulation of the E-cadherin-beta-catenin complex. We investigated the molecular basis of this regulation, using human colon cancer cells with aberrantly activated beta-catenin signaling. Sparse cultures mimicked invasive tumor cells, displaying low levels of E-cadherin due to transcriptional repression of E-cadherin by Slug. Slug was induced by beta-catenin signaling and, independently, by ERK. Dense cultures resembled a differentiated epithelium with high levels of E-cadherin and beta-catenin in adherens junctions. In such cells, beta-catenin signaling, ErbB-1/2 levels, and ERK activation were reduced and Slug was undetectable. Disruption of E-cadherin-mediated contacts resulted in nuclear localization and signaling by beta-catenin, induction of Slug and inhibition of E-cadherin transcription, without changes in ErbB-1/2 and ERK activation. This autoregulation of E-cadherin by cell-cell adhesion involving Slug, beta-catenin and ERK could be important in tumorigenesis.

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