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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2013 Jan 18;430(3):889-94. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2012.12.060. Epub 2012 Dec 20.

The transcription factor Snail enhanced the degradation of E-cadherin and desmoglein 2 in oral squamous cell carcinoma cells.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Kagoshima University Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences, 8-35-1 Sakuragaoka, Kagoshima 890-8544, Japan.


Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a key process in the tumor metastatic cascade, is characterized by the loss of cell-cell junctions and cell polarity as well as the acquisition of migratory and invasive properties. However, the precise molecular events that initiate this complex EMT process are poorly understood. Snail is a regulator of EMT that represses E-cadherin transcription through its interaction with proximal E-boxes in the promoter region of target genes. To investigate the role of Snail in EMT, we generated stable Snail transfectants using the oral squamous cell carcinoma cell line HSC-4 (Snail/HSC-4). Snail/HSC-4 cells had a spindle-shaped mesenchymal morphology, and enhanced migration and invasiveness relative to control cells. Consistent with these EMT changes, the downregulation of epithelial marker proteins, E-cadherin and desmoglein 2, and the upregulation of mesenchymal marker proteins, vimentin and N-cadherin were detected. Despite these observations, the mRNA levels of E-cadherin and desmoglein 2 did not decrease significantly. Although E-cadherin and desmoglein 2 proteins were stable in parental HSC-4 cells, these proteins were rapidly degraded in Snail/HSC-4 cells. The degradation of E-cadherin, but not desmoglein 2, was inhibited by dynasore, an inhibitor of dynamin-dependent endocytosis. Therefore, in HSC-4 cells Snail regulates levels of these proteins both transcriptionally and post-translationally.

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