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Nat Cell Biol. 2006 Dec;8(12):1398-406. Epub 2006 Oct 29.

A Wnt-Axin2-GSK3beta cascade regulates Snail1 activity in breast cancer cells.

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Department of Oral Pathology, Oral Cancer Research Institute, College of Dentistry Yonsei University, Seoul 120-752, Korea.


Accumulating evidence indicates that hyperactive Wnt signalling occurs in association with the development and progression of human breast cancer. As a consequence of engaging the canonical Wnt pathway, a beta-catenin-T-cell factor (TCF) transcriptional complex is generated, which has been postulated to trigger the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) that characterizes the tissue-invasive phenotype. However, the molecular mechanisms by which the beta-catenin-TCF complex induces EMT-like programmes remain undefined. Here, we demonstrate that canonical Wnt signalling engages tumour cell dedifferentiation and tissue-invasive activity through an Axin2-dependent pathway that stabilizes the Snail1 zinc-transcription factor, a key regulator of normal and neoplastic EMT programmes. Axin2 regulates EMT by acting as a nucleocytoplasmic chaperone for GSK3beta, the dominant kinase responsible for controlling Snail1 protein turnover and activity. As dysregulated Wnt signalling marks a diverse array of cancerous tissue types, the identification of a beta-catenin-TCF-regulated Axin2-GSK3beta-Snail1 axis provides new mechanistic insights into cancer-associated EMT programmes.

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