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Neoplasia. 2008 Dec;10(12):1444-58.

Restoration of E-cadherin cell-cell junctions requires both expression of E-cadherin and suppression of ERK MAP kinase activation in Ras-transformed breast epithelial cells.

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Department of Pharmacology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48201, USA.


E-cadherin is a main component of the cell-cell adhesion junctions that play a principal role in maintaining normal breast epithelial cell morphology. Breast and other cancers that have up-regulated activity of Ras are often found to have down-regulated or mislocalized E-cadherin expression. Disruption of E-cadherin junctions and consequent gain of cell motility contribute to the process known as epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Enforced expression of E-cadherin or inhibition of Ras-signal transduction pathway has been shown to be effective in causing reversion of EMT in several oncogene-transformed and cancer-derived cell lines. In this study, we investigated MCF10A human breast epithelial cells and derivatives that were transformed with either activated H-Ras or N-Ras to test for the reversion of EMT by inhibition of Ras-driven signaling pathways. Our results demonstrated that inhibition of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) kinase, but not PI3-kinase, Rac, or myosin light chain kinase, was able to completely restore E-cadherin cell-cell junctions and epithelial morphology in cell lines with moderate H-Ras expression. In MCF10A cells transformed by a high-level expression of activated H-Ras or N-Ras, restoration of E-cadherin junction required both the enforced reexpression of E-cadherin and suppression of MAPK kinase. Enforced expression of E-cadherin alone did not induce reversion from the mesenchymal phenotype. Our results suggest that Ras transformation has at least two independent actions to disrupt E-cadherin junctions, with effects to cause both mislocalization of E-cadherin away from the cell surface and profound decrease in the expression of E-cadherin.

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