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Lab Invest. 2011 Mar;91(3):426-38. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.2010.201. Epub 2011 Jan 31.

Slug enhances invasion ability of pancreatic cancer cells through upregulation of matrix metalloproteinase-9 and actin cytoskeleton remodeling.

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Department of General Surgery, The Affiliated Hospital of Medical College, QingDao University, QingDao, PR China.


Slug, a member of the Snail family of transcription factors, has a crucial role in the regulation of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) by suppressing several epithelial markers and adhesion molecules, including E-cadherin. A recent study demonstrated that no relationship exists between Slug and E-cadherin in pancreatic cancer. Another study showed that in malignant mesothelioma effusions Slug was associated with matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) expression, but that there was no association with E-cadherin. F-ascin is an actin-bundling protein involved in filopodia assembly and cancer invasion and metastasis of multiple epithelial cancer types. In this study, we investigated Slug, E-cadherin, and MMP-9 expression using immunohistochemistry in 60 patients with pancreatic cancer and their correlation with carcinoma invasion and metastasis. Additionally, we observed the effects of Slug on invasion and metastasis in the pancreatic cancer cell line PANC-1. Alterations in Slug, MMP-9, and E-cadherin were determined by RT-PCR, western blot, and immunohistochemistry. Alterations in MMP-9 and F-actin cytoskeleton were determined by immunofluorescence staining, flow cytometry (FCM), or gelatin zymography. Slug, E-cadherin, and MMP-9 expression in pancreatic cancer was significantly associated with lymph node metastases and we found a significant correlation between Slug and MMP-9 expression; however, no significant correlation was observed between Slug and E-cadherin expression. Slug transfection significantly increased invasion and metastasis in PANC-1 cells and orthotopic tumor of mouse in vivo, and significantly upregulated and activated MMP-9; however, there was no effect on E-cadherin expression. Slug promoted the formation of lamelliopodia or filopodia in PANC-1 cells. The intracellular F-actin and MMP-9 was increased and relocated to the front of the extending pseudopodia from the perinuclear pool in Slug-transfected PANC-1 cells. These results suggest that Slug promotes migration and invasion of PANC-1 cells, which may correlate with the reorganization of MMP-9 and remodeling of the F-actin cytoskeleton, but not with E-cadherin expression.

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