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FASEB J. 2012 Dec;26(12):5002-13. doi: 10.1096/fj.12-209247. Epub 2012 Sep 5.

Loss of Mel-18 enhances breast cancer stem cell activity and tumorigenicity through activating Notch signaling mediated by the Wnt/TCF pathway.

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Dept. of Pathology, College of Medicine, Hanyang University, 17 Haengdang-dong, Seongdong-gu, Seoul, 133-791, Republic of Korea.


Mel-18 has been proposed as a negative regulator of Bmi-1, a cancer stem cell (CSC) marker, but it is still unclear whether Mel-18 is involved in CSC regulation. Here, we examined the effect of Mel-18 on the stemness of human breast CSCs. In Mel-18 small hairpin RNA (shRNA)-transduced MCF-7 cells, side population (SP) cells and breast CSC surface marker (CD44(+)/CD24(-)/ESA(+))-expressing cells, which imply a CSC population, were enriched. Moreover, the self-renewal of CSCs was enhanced by Mel-18 knockdown, as measured by the ability for tumorsphere formation in vitro and tumor-initiating capacity in vivo. Similarly, Mel-18 overexpression inhibited the number and self-renewal activity of breast CSCs in SK-BR-3 cells. Furthermore, our data showed that Mel-18 blockade up-regulated the expression of the Wnt/TCF target Jagged-1, a Notch ligand, and consequently activated the Notch pathway. Pharmacologic inhibition of the Notch and Wnt pathways abrogated Mel-18 knockdown-mediated tumorsphere formation ability. Taken together, our findings suggest that Mel-18 is a novel negative regulator of breast CSCs that inhibits the stem cell population and in vitro and in vivo self-renewal through the inactivation of Wnt-mediated Notch signaling.

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