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Mol Cancer Res. 2010 Feb;8(2):170-82. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-09-0354. Epub 2010 Feb 9.

Bcl-2 overexpression induces a partial epithelial to mesenchymal transition and promotes squamous carcinoma cell invasion and metastasis.

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  • 1Department of Cell and Tissue Biology, University of California San Francisco, 521 Parnassus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94143-0640, USA.


Evidence shows that Bcl-2 family members play a direct role in the development of some human malignancies. However, the mechanism by which Bcl-2 may influence tumor cell invasion and metastasis remains unclear. Ectopic overexpression of Bcl-2 in the human squamous carcinoma cell line HSC-3 enhanced tumorigenicity and experimental pulmonary metastasis. Interestingly, Bcl-2-expressing cells showed morphologic changes that resembled that of cells with an epithelial-mesenchymal transition phenotype. Analysis revealed increased N-cadherin and vimentin expression in parallel with attenuated E-cadherin level, along with enhanced migration and invasive behavior. Zymography studies confirmed elevated levels of matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) in media of Bcl-2-expressing cells. siRNA-mediated suppression of N-cadherin expression not only prevented the enhanced invasion but also blocked the increased MMP-9 expression induced by elevated Bcl-2 expression. Accordingly, pharmacologic inhibition of MMP-9 abrogated the increased tumor cell invasion. Furthermore, the Bcl-2-mediated increase in MMP-9 expression and tumor cell invasion was dependent on fibroblast growth factor receptor-1 or extracellular signal-regulated kinase signaling. Collectively, the data establish that Bcl-2 overexpression in squamous carcinoma cells induces a partial epithelial to mesenchymal transition that promotes not only survival but also invasion and metastasis through the N-cadherin/fibroblast growth factor receptor/extracellular signal-regulated kinase pathway.

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